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From celebration to concern, BJP shifts its stand on statue vandalism

When images of Lenin’s statue being brought down emerged on social media on Monday night, there was a sense of jubilation in the BJP camp.

india Updated: Mar 07, 2018 23:16 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
BJP,Statue vandalism,Tripura assembly elections
Remains of the five-feet-tall statue of Lenin which was allegedly demolished at Belonia in South Tripura district on Monday.(PTI Photo)

From Monday to Wednesday, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) underwent a quick transformation in its views on vandalising statues.

When images of Lenin’s statue being brought down emerged on social media on Monday night, there was a sense of jubilation in the BJP camp.

The party’s general secretary, Ram Madhav, tweeted: “People taking down Lenin’s statue....not in Russia. It is in Tripura. Chalo Paltai.” The last phrase was the BJP slogan in the elections, announcing its determination to change the regime.

It got legitimacy from none other than the Tripura governor, Tathagata Roy, who wears his political credentials on his sleeve and calls himself a “right wing socio-political economic thinker and writer”. He said on Twitter: “What one democratically elected government can do, another democratically elected government can undo. And vice versa.” Other party supporters branded it as ‘resistance’.

But the party line changed decisively by Wednesday morning. Not only did Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemn the growing instances of vandalism, the home ministry issued strong advisories to states to crack down on such incidents.

BJP president Amit Shah called it “extremely unfortunate”, and said disciplinary action would be taken against anyone in the party associated with such activities.

The strong stance, party leaders said, came after the realisation that these incidents could be politically costly.

For one, the vandalism was beginning to assume a life of its own. “It seemed like we were encouraging lawlessness of some sort when it was not the case at all. We responded quickly to show that the government cannot tolerate anarchy,” said a person associated with the party.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yehchuri with other Politburo members Prakash Karat, Suryakanta Mishra, Brinda Karat, Biman Bose and other leaders at a rally in Kolkata. (PTI Photo)

By Wednesday morning, the statue of the party’s own icon, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, had been vandalised in West Bengal.

The Tamil Nadu incident, where a BJP leader first said statues of EV Ramasamy ‘Periyar’ would face the same fate, also led to alarm bells ringing.

Read | Lenin, Periyar, SP Mookerjee, Ambedkar: Statue vandalism the new political flashpoint

Across the state, there was uniform condemnation. The BJP is seeking to make inroads into the state, but has in the past been accused of seeking to impose Hindi. “We realise that we were again coming across as insensitive,” said the person quoted above.

And then there was the political calculus. The BJP began getting inputs from Uttar Pradesh in particular that this could result in attacks on Ambedkar statues, as was the case in Meerut on Tuesday night. This would then be seen as an anti-Dalit move, and thus could be politically costly, most immediately in the UP bypolls.

Once it decided, the party swung into action. The PM’s categorical and unambiguous message set the tone.

First Published: Mar 07, 2018 22:32 IST