It is hard to say which is more galling: a Shiv Sena MP at Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi forcing a fasting Muslim man to eat or his party chief Uddhav Thackeray failing to condemn it. Both indicate how lumpenism has become so much a part of the party's culture that even outrage in Parliament cannot influence its response.

Rajan Vichare was caught on video last week trying to push a chapathi piece into the mouth of a caterer at the Sadan who was reportedly fasting for Ramzan. Vichare later issued a statement saying that he regretted it if he had hurt  anyone's religious sentiments and that he was merely protesting against the quality of food at the Sadan.

Thackeray also said that Vichare did not intend to hurt anyone's religious sentiment yet added that he resented people trying to suppress the Shiv Sena's voice. "The opposition is being political in targeting the Sena," he said. "Our MPs were telling him (the Muslim boy) to eat the food he serves. Religion was not written on [his] face."

Whatever the man's religion, trying to push food into someone's mouth as a mode of protest is hardly civilised.

For the past few decades, the Shiv Sena's "voice" has often amounted to vandalism and violence, out of which it has on many occasions gained political mileage in Maharashtra. It would be naive to expect that Thackeray would condemn this culture now, especially when an assembly election is around the corner.

But what about its senior alliance partner, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party?

It is true that senior BJP leader LK Advani disapproved of what had happened.  “This is wrong,” he told reporters on Wednesday, when asked to comment on the incident. Barring this, however, the government has said little.

The Sena is the only member of the ruling National Democratic Alliance that is ideologically in tune with the Sangh Parivar. More important, however, electoral calculations appear to have come into play for the BJP.

The two parties have contested elections in Maharashtra together for years. From the point of view of both parties, in an alliance they have a good chance to sweep the state election due in October. Thus, for electoral reasons, the BJP must stand by the Sena, just as Uddhav must do so by his MPs.

BJP and Sena leaders are not, of course, unique in being influenced by electoral calculations. Political parties routinely try to maximise their appeal by keeping their responses vague while trying to defend the indefensible, especially during elections.

Three weeks ago, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee exemplified this when she declined to take action against her party MP Tapas Pal for his threats to rape and murder his political opponents, which were caught on camera. Instead, she told reporters, “What do you want me to do, kill him?”

But the BJP's silence is particularly worrying because many people fear that its massive mandate in the recent Lok Sabha election could lead to majoritarian triumphalism, a fear intensified by the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat in 2002 when the state witnessed its worst ever communal carnage.

Moreover, the BJP has routinely ignored the excesses of the Shiv Sena and other Hindutva organisations that have stoked insecurity among minorities, often by flouting the law.