The BJP seems to be re-branding itself by defending Shah Rukh Khan against the Shiv Sena’s verbal assault on the actor for favouring Pakistani players’ inclusion in the Indian Premier League.
After strongly disagreeing with the Sena on its “Mumbai for Marathis only” campaign, the party rejected its description of Khan as a “traitor” or “enemy of India”, saying he had done India proud with his work.
The BJP will hold a special screening of My Name is Khan for senior leaders on Friday even as Sena workers warned Mumbai halls to boycott the film that releases on February 12.
The screening film is being organized by Shaina N.C., the BJP’s young face from Maharashtra. “I am doing it because SRK is my friend. Everyone has a right to say what he wants. Nobody should be targeted for his views,” Shaina told HT.
Khan had never been favourite of the BJP. He was seen as a close friend of the young Gandhis and opposed to the BJP.
Therefore, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad’s praise of Khan on Thursday appeared to signal a change.
Insiders see politics in the BJP’s change of tactics. Soon after last year’s Lok Sabha election defeat, many leaders had sought a review of the BJP’s hardline approach. Critics inside the party silenced them, claiming the support of the RSS.
Now, with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat taking the lead in flaying the Sena, BJP leaders got a hint that they could reposition the party as more modernist.
Khan already has immense support from the youth, which the BJP could tap. “This could be a beginning,” said a BJP leader, “for us to show ourselves a more reasonable party that supports moderation and not fanaticism of any kind.”