Cornered in Parliament over a string of controversial comments by its leaders and worried these may overshadow its development agenda, the Modi government is on a mission to identify and tame these “loose cannons” so that disruptions can end and the House can get on with important legislative business.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi said to be upset that these incidents threaten to hijack his agenda of development and governance, senior ministers have been deployed to crack the whip on errant leaders. Sources said Union parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Friday pulled up BJP’s Unnao MP Sakshi Maharaj for calling Mahatma Gandhi’s killer Nathuram Godse a patriot. Maharaj was earlier forced to apologise for the comment in Lok Sabha.
“We have identified these loose cannons who often land the party in trouble with their public statements. They are ‘soft targets’ for the media . They are being personally advised by senior people in the government to exercise restraint and not derail the development agenda,” a senior cabinet minister told HT.
In fact, the first word of caution had come from the PM himself when he had asked BJP MPs at a parliamentary party meeting a fortnight ago not to “address the nation” and limit themselves to talking about their constituencies.
While the sources refused to identify the leaders who have been cautioned, they reportedly include many Hindutva hardliners who rode the Modi wave to be elected to the Lok Sabha.
The government’s headache started with Union minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti asking Delhi voters if they wanted a government formed by “Ramzadon” (children of Ram) or “haramzadon” (those born illegitimately). This was followed by Sakshi Maharaj’s Godse comment and then UP governor Ram Naik said Thursday the “people of the nation want a Ram Mandir (in Ayodhya)”. Backing Naik, Maharaj said “no power on earth can stop the construction of Ram temple”.
All this while, the government was also being cornered in the House over the allegedly forced conversion of Muslims in UP by RSS-affiliated Hindu groups.
“The Opposition wanted to drag the (Godse) subject for some time. We swung into action immediately and did damage control. Similarly, when the Opposition tried to hold Parliament to ransom on Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti’s remark, the PM came forward to make a statement in Parliament after doing some hard talking at the BJP parliamentary party meeting,” said another minister.
Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the government was serious about running Parliament and not allowing any incident to overshadow the real issue of development that matters to the people of this country.
Taking exception to Naik’s comments, a senior minister went so far as to say, “The RSS will have to think of reining in its people holding constitutional posts.”