A man is known by the friends he keeps — the same holds true for political parties. In which context, the BJP has much cause for worry. For its friends, read political allies like the Shiv Sena, have done little but embarrass it in recent times. After its ghastly ink attack on one-time party insider Sudheendra Kulkarni in Mumbai for his support for a former Pakistani minister’s book release, the Sena, far from being apologetic for literally blackening India’s reputation, has declared that it is proud of its behaviour. The BJP should ideally break off with its truculent ally, but it is not likely to do so, thanks to electoral compulsions. So we can expect the Sena to continue with its uniquely destructive brand of politics while the BJP watches in disquiet.
Closer home, its culture minister Mahesh Sharma has time and again revealed an unsavoury face of his portfolio by making gratuitous and unacceptable remarks on several issues, the latest being advice to those returning their literary awards to stop writing altogether. He has made what can only be described as uncalled for remarks on the beef ban and has largely been an unguided missile in expressing views which are at variance with the BJP government. At no time has he been told firmly not to air his opinions unless they are specifically sought. In the case of the Sena and the utterances of others like the voluble Sadhvi Prachi, the BJP has not been quick enough to distance itself from them, preferring to drag its feet till it is finally almost forced to make a statement. The Sena on its part has always thrived on a disruptive form of politics. But the BJP, being the party of governance, cannot afford to be tarnished by the Sena’s antics. At least the BJP’s state leaders should have come out more forcefully against the Sena instead of making mild statements of condemnation. In order to contain the damage caused by incendiary statements and violent incidents like the attack on Mr Kulkarni, the condemnation should be immediate and unequivocal.
The BJP has fallen short on this count. This will give its wayward allies like the Sena and disruptive elements within its fold the licence to misbehave. This should be a cause for serious concern for the party for each such incident erodes its credibility and authority.