Pay heed to the PM’s message
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to the newly-elected Members of Parliament from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday, he sent out a stern message. Just last week, Akash Vijayvargiya -- a MLA in Madhya Pradesh, and the son of the influential party general secretary and West Bengal in-charge, Kailash Vijayvargiya -- was captured on camera hitting an Indore municipal official with a bat. He was unrepentant, and supporters lauded him as a hero. But the PM was not happy. And he made it clear at the parliamentary party meeting, linking the incident to the larger issues of party discipline, civil behaviour, and the need to meet responsibilities.
Mr Modi made three categorical points. On the Indore incident itself, he said this kind of behaviour was unacceptable; it deserved the harshest condemnation, and the lineage of the person committing the act did not matter. He even hinted at disciplinary action. Two, Mr Modi had a message for the party workers who cheered Mr Vijayvargiya on. The PM emphasised that if a mistake had been made, it needed to be accompanied with regret rather than jubilation. Three, Mr Modi went beyond the incident to remind the MPs of their own duties. During the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha, many party MPs skipped parliamentary proceedings -- this, Modi said, pained him deeply. And he told them that this kind of behaviour would be counter productive, for ministerial selection is done on the basis of merit, where performance in parliament is a parameter.
Mr Modi’s speech must be seen along with his first address to parliamentarians of the National Democratic Alliance when he was elected the leader of the coalition soon after the results. Then, he highlighted the need for responsible behaviour, warned against brash utterances, and told the MPs to avoid getting enmeshed with murky power dealings in Delhi. Put together, it is clear that the PM does not want a repeat of some of the mistakes committed by the party rank and file during his first term in office. Given the huge mandate the BJP has won this time, there is a real danger of arrogance seeping in. The election was won on Mr Modi’s name. And he is acutely aware that any misbehaviour will reflect poorly on his leadership. The fact that he is investing political capital in instilling a sense of discipline in the party is laudable. But warnings themselves are not enough. Modi must walk the talk and ensure action when redlines are crossed -- be it in cases of violent behaviour or provocative speech -- for that will be the big deterrent.