Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been careful to stress inclusivity since taking office in May last year, he has failed to prevent fellow BJP leaders and members of right-wing groups from making remarks that embarrass the government. Union minister Niranjan Jyoti’s offensive language during a speech to voters generated a media tornado and a united Opposition did not let Parliament function last year.
On Monday, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said Mother Teresa's service to the poor was aimed at converting them to Christianity. The timing of his remark is set to hurt another Parliament session — Monday was the first day of the budget sitting and the beginning of a major campaign to challenge Modi's overhaul of land-use laws; the Opposition will use any opportunity it gets.
The BJP leaders seem to have been severely affected by the foot in mouth epidemic. Here is a look at our politicians and their ridiculous quotes:
Minister of state for food processing industries Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and minister of state for parliamentary affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi at Parliament on first day of Budget Session in New Delhi. (Mohd Zakir/HT Photo)
Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti: Union minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti stoked a controversy by allegedly making an inflammatory speech and using an expletive at an election rally in New Delhi in December last year, drawing severe flak from opposition parties. “Aapko tay karna hai ki Dilli mein sarkar Ramzadon ki banegi ya har**zadon ki. Yeh aapka faisla hai,” the BJP leader told voters. The remarks left the Narendra Modi government embarrassed as it faced the opposition’s ire in Parliament.
Madhya Pradesh home minister Babulal Gaur and outgoing Mayor Krishna Gaur show their inked fingers after casting their votes for the Local Bodies Election in Bhopal earlier this year. (PTI Photo)
Babulal Gaur: While Narendra Modi spoke strongly about women’s safety in his Independence Day speech, Madhya Pradesh home minister Babulal Gaur kicked up a row by describing rape as a social crime which was “sometimes right, sometimes wrong”. He said the governments could not ensure that women do not get raped, triggering angry reactions from the Congress.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat during Vanvasi Raksha Parivar Kumbh in New Delhi, India last year. (Arvind Yadav/ HT Photo)
Mohan Bhagwat: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said in February this year that India was a “Hindu Rashtra” and there was a need to organise all Hindus in the country for which this was “favourable time”. Quoting famous poet Rabindranath Tagore, he said whenever there will be conflicts among Hindus and Muslims, “a middle-path will emerge and that path will be of Hindutva.” “Hindustan is a Hindu Rashtra, which is a fact. We are going ahead with this (idea). All Hindus have to be organised to make this nation great. When our country will become great that will benefit that the entire world.”
Yogi Adityanath at a rally in New Delhi. (Arun Sharma/HT Photo)
Yogi Adityanath: Yogi Adityanath’s inflammatory speeches were held responsible for the BJP’s poor performance in recently held bypolls in Uttar Pradesh. The party’s lead campaigner in UP, Adityanath made a controversial statement as he blamed a minority community for the recent communal incidents in the state. "There have been 450 riots cases in west UP in two-and-a-half years of Samajwadi Party (SP) because the population of a particular community is rising manifold. Why are there no riots in eastern UP? You can easily understand," he said during a recent rally in Noida.
Ramesh Pokhriyal: During a debate in Parliament on a bill to give more powers to the school of planning and architecture, BJP MP Ramesh Pokhriyal said astrology was superior to science. "Jyotish is a science to make calculations lakhs of years in advance. All other sciences dwarf in front of astrology. It should be taken forward as science is number one in the world. There should be a debate on the subject," Pokhriyal said.
Leaders not the only problem
If the BJP leaders’ comments weren’t enough, fans of PM Modi recently planned to open a temple in his honour. The plan was scrapped after the PM said he was “appalled” by the idea. The fans decided to rededicate the temple to "Mother India" after the prime minister strongly criticised the plan, saying it went against the country's traditions.
Modi has also suffered opposition charges of arrogance — notably last month when he wore a suit with his own name woven into the pinstripe to meet the visiting US President Barack Obama.?