Is anyone surprised that Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament Pragya Singh Thakur called Mohandas Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse a “deshbhakt”, a patriot, in Parliament?
Thakur has made no secret of her admiration for Godse and indeed, called him a patriot even in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections after she was made a BJP candidate. At the time, she had to apologise, and the BJP insisted that its views were not the same as hers. Prime Minister Narendra Modi even said he will never be able to forgive Thakur for her comments.
Yet nothing about her candidature changed and her electoral victory was celebrated.
On Thursday, a day after Thakur called Godse a deshbhakt in the Lok Sabha – and despite others in the party trying to claim she wasn’t talking about Gandhi’s assassin – the BJP has decided to take some action. Thakur has been removed from the Parliamentary panel on defence. BJP working president JP Nadda said she will not be allowed to participate in parliamentary party meetings this session.
If that sounds like an appropriate punishment, it isn’t. Punishing Thakur by removing her from the Parliamentary defence panel is like yelling at a thief for stealing after you handed him the keys to your house. Why was he inside in the first place?
In the same vein, the question is not whether the punishment is apt, but why Thakur was even on a defence panel, and indeed, in Parliament in the first place.
Let’s not forget, Thakur has been accused of terrorism. She is among the alleged conspirators in the Malegaon blasts case, where explosives hidden in a motorcycle killed six people and injured more than 100 others in Maharashtra in 2008. Her initial comment defending Godse also came in the context of terrorism, in which she said people should not call him a terrorist because he was actually a patriot.
Clearly, she subscribes to or, at the very least, admires Godse’s violent philosophy and has also been accused of committing terror herself – two data points that should have meant no mainstream political party even considering her for a Lok Sabha ticket, let alone a spot on a Parliamentary panel overseeing India’s defence.
But this is what the BJP chose to endorse. It should now hardly be surprising that Thakur espouses the views she has always held. Modi’s “will never forgive her” comments seemed to achieve nothing. And it is equally doubtful that the current punishments will somehow prompt a change of heart from Thakur.
At most, it seems as if the party is mildly embarassed by her comments because of the headlines they result in, not because of the implication that the BJP is endorsing and actually promoting a strain of thought that believes in hatred and violence. Indeed, for many in the party, that is a selling point – as the support for Thakur online on Wednesday demonstrated.
This is the India that the BJP wants: one where the ruling party openly encourages bigoted behaviour and policies, where any criticism is labeled anti-national, where those who were part of lynch mobs are garlanded. This is the India that the BJP has helped create. How can anyone be surprised that praise for Gandhi’s assassin made its way to Parliament?