The BJP’s moral compass is one defunct tool. Ever since the Election Commission (EC) held Varun Gandhi guilty of breaching the model code of conduct on Sunday, BJP spokespersons have been coming out of the woodwork in his defence. Granted, the EC’s ‘suggestion’ to the BJP not to field Mr Gandhi as a candidate in the polls was also defunct, coming as did before the motor-mouthed politician was even officially nominated. It is indeed the BJP’s business whom it nominates. Which is exactly why by defending Mr Gandhi’s indefensible comments, the BJP has shown its truly lurid colours. Here’s the bottomline: the BJP has now decided to give an electoral ticket to someone who can immediately be booked under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (“promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony”).
For those of us who insist that the BJP has moved far from its original hunting grounds and settled down as a ‘normal’ anti-Congress national party, the party spreading a protective cover around a bigot (whether a genuine one or someone who sees an opportunity in behaving like one is inconsequential), this is bad news. It is one thing to go into a damage control mode — as the party did immediately after it came to light that its man from Pilibhit had been caught on camera making blatantly anti-Muslim speeches. It’s quite another to react to the EC’s utterings by insisting that Mr Gandhi would now definitely be given a BJP ticket. While legally the party may be in the clear by trashing the EC’s remarks, it will be downright stupid for us now to see the BJP as just another conservative political party with a healthy notion of ‘cultural nationalism’.
Mr Gandhi has got his 15 minutes of fame and it would be interesting to see if he has anything beyond his ‘Gandhi’ tag and new found sense of Hindutva to flog at the poll bazaars. But it is the BJP’s identity that has once again come under the scanner for the wrong reasons. The reaction against the EC may be understandable, but not the reaction against common sense. The BJP is backing a person who thinks it’s perfectly okay to jettison the secular character of our democracy to win votes. What does that make the BJP?