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Monday, Oct 14, 2019

Enfants terribles of new India

Pankaja Munde, a state minister, has earned herself an appellation for allegedly inflating bills of nutritious meals provided to children in anganwadis, as also more recently of mobile phones provided to anganwadi workers.

opinion Updated: Apr 24, 2019 05:55 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times
If the BJP really intends to replace the Constitution with the Manusmriti, as is being claimed by many BJP functionaries, has Pankaja considered her double jeopardy in this regard?
If the BJP really intends to replace the Constitution with the Manusmriti, as is being claimed by many BJP functionaries, has Pankaja considered her double jeopardy in this regard?(HT Photo)
         

Among the most prominent dynasties in the BJP – that of the Munde-Mahajan brothers-in-law — Rahul Mahajan, son of the late Pramod Mahajan, had desperately wanted a career in politics. But after his fiasco on the eve of the immersion of his father’s ashes, it is just as well that a disapproving LK Advani and Nitin Gadkari completely sidelined him. His sister Poonam Mahajan who is now contesting from Mumbai North Central, however, has been conducting herself in exemplary fashion, but I am deeply disappointed with her cousin and daughter of the late Gopinath Munde. Pankaja Munde, a state minister, has earned herself an appellation for allegedly inflating bills of nutritious meals provided to children in anganwadis, as also more recently of mobile phones provided to anganwadi workers.

As water resources minister, when she visited Marathwada one summer, she was more worried about her make-up being spoilt by streaking sweat in the heat as she took selfies, than about helping the villagers. Taking a benign view, one could put that frivolity down to her relative youth and immaturity. But a decade into public life, one would expect she would know better than to tell voters during the current campaign that the BJP would change the Constitution if it returns to power. I wonder if she considered the effect that would have had on Dalit and OBC voters and how that could have alienated them from her own party, days ahead of the polling. Moreover, if the BJP really intends to replace the Constitution with the Manusmriti, as is being claimed by many BJP functionaries, has Pankaja considered her double jeopardy in this regard? As both an OBC and as a woman, she would have few rights, might never get another ticket to contest , may never become a minister and any daughter she may have would never be allowed to pursue a medical education as she did and come up equal to men.

Even if one dismisses that as a vacuous statement in the heat of electioneering, I seriously doubted her general acumen when I saw a statement from her, saying her father had aimed to end dynasty from the country. She was probably targeting both the Pawars and the Gandhis as her party leaders are doing this election season, but I guess the irony quite passed her by. Pankaja was campaigning in Beed for her sister Pritam who had been first given the ticket on the death of their father. Did she think then she and her sister as well as her cousin Poonam were not perpetrating any dynasty and had received tickets purely on merit?

But while all of the above can be put down to a lack of understanding, what Pankaja has said now cannot be condoned or dismissed as mere political immaturity. Considering that questions are being raised over the air strikes in Balakot in Pakistan, following the Pulwama terror attack, mostly by MNS president Raj Thackeray, Pankaja said, “Rahul Gandhi should be tied to a bomb and sent to another country so that he would know what an air strike was.”

I would like to dismiss that as a sign of bad upbringing, but I knew Pankaja’s father well for years and he would never even dream of making a statement like that. Munde was one of the most brilliant and courageous opposition leaders of the early 1990s when he took on the most powerful CM of those times, Sharad Pawar, in no uncertain terms. Even as he went hammer and tongs at Pawar, his statements were purely political and he never put a foot wrong in bringing down Pawar and the Congress. The defeat of the Congress in 1995 in Maharashtra was largely attributed to his ferocious campaign against the ruling party but there is not a single statement from those years that was out of place.

Pankaja now manifests everything that has gone wrong with the BJP from the times of her father. Advani and Vajpayee always placed emphasis on shuchita, samrasta and sabhyata, but the new BJP is boorish, abusive, unrefined, ill-bred, unchaste in language and subterranean in thought, as also obvious from how the party’s Bhopal candidate Pragya Singh Thakur disrespected 26/11 martyr Hemant Karkare. The BJP is raising some enfants terribles who seem not to know the difference between right and wrong. It cannot be good for either the party or the country.

First Published: Apr 24, 2019 05:54 IST

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