Uncaged: Editorial on BJP's 'Frankenstein' moment
The endurance of great literature can be attributed to the lessons it holds for future generations. It is not known whether the leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party are familiar with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the nineteenth-century novel which chronicles a doomed experiment that begets a beast. The BJP leadership’s inability to tame the beast — a vicious constituency of trolls, ideologues and sympathisers — from going about its own business, not once but quite a few times, has evoked a Frankenstein moment for the party. First, there seemed to be few takers for what appeared to be Mohan Bhagwat’s calculated, conciliatory appeal that urged the sangh parivar’s patrons to stop looking for shivalingas in every masjid. Now, it is being reported that large segments of the right-wing ecosystem have not taken too kindly to the BJP’s ‘censure’ of its spokespersons after the controversy over their intemperate remarks and tweets on the Prophet. Apparently, the prime minister — the BJP’s tallest Hindutva icon — has also fallen from grace. This rogue community’s endorsement of an equally divisive Dutch lawmaker exposes its refusal to accept disciplinary action against rabble-rousers no matter what the transgression. Of course, the BJP’s apparent retreat in the face of international condemnation of ‘fringe’ elements has been necessitated by strategic imperatives. India is dependent on the Islamic nations of West Asia for trade, energy and oil. The Gulf also has a large number of Indian employees whose remittances are crucial to the domestic economy. A retaliation against this segment by their host countries would pose significant hurdles. But the bigot is not amenable to logic or has concern for fellow citizens.
The stridency discernible in the right-wing reiterates the concern that the fringe has, indeed, taken over the political centre of the BJP. Having unleashed the Creature, the political leadership is now struggling to put this evil genie back into the bottle. This can have serious repercussions not only for the party but also for the country. India’s global goodwill, the result of the pursuit of inclusive policy, is now in tatters in the Islamic world and also in the West: periodic criticism from the United States of America and Europe on rising communalism is now common. There is just one way out for the BJP: to cage the beast through meaningful action against perpetrators of mischief. But does it have the will and the integrity to crack the whip?