Punish BJP's Sakshi Maharaj for remarks

BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj’s offensive comments about Muslims are an obvious attempt at communal polarisation of the electorate before the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections slated for February and March. Though he did not name the community, it is clear that he meant the Muslim community when he said last week at a religious function in Meerut that the population boom in the country was not ‘because of Hindus but because of those who support the concept of four wives and 40 children’. The police have filed an FIR against the MP and the Election Commission has slapped a notice on him saying that he has prima facie violated the model code of conduct. Provocative comments with communal intent and overtones are routinely made before elections, and they are part of the electoral plans in sensitive states like UP. It is Hindutva leaders who are mostly seen to be indulging in this.

The BJP has tried to distance itself from the statement with a junior Union minister, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, saying that the statement does not represent the government’s or the party’s views. But such denials do not carry credibility. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has refused to comment on the matter. Neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor party president Amit Shah has made the government’s and the party’s views clear on it. It has always been the BJP’s strategy to blame ‘fringe elements’ in the party for such provocative statements and to claim that these are their personal views. This is a clever and convenient ruse. The mischief has its impact and the party gets its political or electoral mileage from it without being held responsible for it and being spared of legal or other consequences, if any. No action is taken against those who make such statements. No warnings or even show-cause notices are issued to them. That shows how sincere the party is in its denials.

Sakshi Maharaj’s statement should invite action under the Supreme Court’s recent judgement which held that an appeal in the name of religion would amount to electoral malpractice. After the court judgement, the BJP had said that it would not practise the politics of religious polarisation and blamed other parties for it. But is well known that it is the BJP which has misused religion the most for its politics. The matter goes beyond the rights and wrongs about elections. The party does not realise the damage being done to society by outrageous statements like those being made by Sakshi Maharaj and other rabid elements in its ranks and by its own double talk about them, which actually amounts to approval.

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