The BJP appears to be losing its once famed ability to pick up the ball and run with it. After having taken a justifiably strong stand against terrorism, it has been done in by internal contradictions on the issue of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the Malegaon blast case. If party supremo L.K. Advani has chosen to be cautious on this contentious issue, BJP president Rajnath Singh came out with the novel theory that anyone who espouses cultural nationalism could not be a terrorist. By saying that the Anti-terrorist Squad (ATS) investigating the case is ‘inspired’, the BJP has done itself a disservice.
At a time when people are reeling under the onslaught of terror across the country, the BJP — as both a responsible opposition party and foremost anti-terror proponent — should have steered clear of giving the Pragya case any communal overtones and maintained that the law should take its course. But far from this, it has now sought answers as to why the ATS did not pursue the accused in the 2006 Malegaon blasts in the same way it is doing with the Sadhvi. This makes it clear that the party is averse to taking a stand at variance with the RSS and VHP that have come out all guns blazing in favour of the Sadhvi even before she has been brought to trial. Of course, the fact that Bharatiya Janashakti Party chief Uma Bharti has offered Pragya the ticket in the coming elections in Madhya Pradesh has also unsettled the BJP. With this the BJP has ceded what was one of its main selling points, that of internal security.
With its waffling on the nuclear issue, it allowed the Congress to corner the glory for the Indo-US deal. Now with its wishy-washy position, or rather positions, on the terror issue, it could lose that advantage as well. It could have shown that it is non-partisan and nationalist in the true sense. Instead, it has shown that it is not above double standards on the terror issue. The message it has conveyed is that while it does not question the motives of the law-enforcement agencies when the accused are from a minority community, it is loathe to believe that a good Hindu is capable of such mischief. By meddling in this issue, the party has lost a valuable piece of ammunition in its political armoury.