It all started with rumours that Padmaavat, then Padmavati, a movie based on Rani Padmini, was set to have a romantic dream sequence between Allaudin Khilji and Rani Padmini. The entire Hindu community, including yours truly, was up in arms against this monstrosity. Even as Bhansali’s team clarified on record, that no such dream sequence was there in the movie, Karni Sena proceeded to manhandle Bhansali and ransack his movie set, after which, followed the usual high pitched moaning about “intolerance on the rise” under Modi.
At this point, things seemed to have calmed down. Some even went to on to suggest that the confusion about dream sequence was created as a publicity stunt and the slap was a publicity stunt gone awry, because we all know outrage begets big moolah for the movie industry. But then, inexplicably, things took a rather ugly turn and the storm tore through the calm that had set upon the controversy.
Karni Sena became increasingly agitated. From threatening to alter Deepika’s pretty face, to wanting Bhansali’s head on a platter. One wondered why the asinine drone had returned, because their reasons to oppose the movie seemed quite muddled. At one point of time, it was a dream sequence that never was. Later, it became about some song where Rani Padmini was to be dancing, and all along, most people, while not wanting to outrightly offend Hindu brethren, wondered what the outrage really was about. Soon, BJP fellows started belching out ridiculous remarks, presumably, to win some sort of brownie points with the Rajput community. Some BJP Chief Ministers went a step ahead and vowed to not allow the movie to be screened in their state despite the Supreme Court asking these people to back off. Violence broke out in different parts of the country, surprisingly, only in BJP ruled states, while the BJP behaved like stoic cows standing in the rain.
While all of this was happening, BJP seemed to have forgotten that Lokendra Singh Kalvi was repeating a standard modus operandi. While his fight for his community is not something to be commented upon and is best left to the community itself to decide, in 2008, Mr. Kalvi had agitated against Jodha Akbar and IPL matches and promptly joined Congress. He even disrupted some rallies that were being held by Vasundhara Raje.
While I completely sympathise with my valorous Rajput brothers and sisters, as they have had to keep their sacred tradition from being mercilessly appropriated and twisted by vested interest for decades, why in the world could BJP not see through this political set up, is truly beyond the realm of understanding.
True to political form, after agitating against Padmaavat, Karni Sena extended support to Congress for the upcoming Rajasthan elections. Rahul Gandhi played good cop very late only after the attack on a children’s school bus, else no Congress leader spoke against Karni. Even a suave, liberal Tharoor said that Rajput sentiments should be respected. As soon as Rahul Gandhi played the good cop by blaming BJP for being regressive and tacitly endorsing attack on the school bus, lackeys like Digvijay Singh played the bad cop and extended support to Karni Sena’s agitation, so as to not alienate the Karni Sena after Rahul’s mandatory tweet. Of course, who played the good cop and who played the bad cop in this scenario depends on which side of the political spectrum one is on.
The result was for all to see. BJP lost miserably in Rajasthan by polls and that loss, was celebrated by Karni Sena.
While BJP sucked its thumb and wondered what hit them, the Karni Sena declared that “Padmaavat glorifies Rajputs” and they would be withdrawing their protest. Of course, after people mocked them and said they were behaving like Kejriwal, they did a reverse U-turn and said that it was ‘fake Karni Sena’ that withdrew the protest, and their agitation was to continue to teach BJP a lesson, because let’s face it, nobody wants to be Kejriwal, not even Karni Sena.
BJP has perhaps still not realised that the violent protests stopped after BJP managed to make a complete fool of themselves and after the Rajasthan by polls were concluded, despite Karni Sena’s loud shrieks, the movie has been screened peacefully everywhere. They haven’t realised, that while Karni Sena supported the Congress, it was the BJP that was made to look like regressive buffoons who stood firmly against the release of a mere movie (that had nothing but Rajput pride on display, apparently). They haven’t realised, while I feel safe calling them buffoons in my article, they were made to look like louts who would support violence to suppress freedom of expression.
This absolute mockery, however, can’t be attributed to BJP’s ignorance alone. This situation stemmed from their utter lack of direction, principally and ideologically.
Ideologically, if BJP wants to be a party that is for and by the Hindus, the BJP has to take a stand for the Hindus vocally and vociferously, perhaps, more pertinently, where Hindu sentiments and safety is at stake in tangible measures. Supporting hollow causes such as this, which was politically motivated from the word go, and staying silent on Hindus being turned into cattle to be butchered, defeats the seriousness of the party’s ideological cause. While BJP was willing to be painted as fascists as Karni Sena, that extended support to Congress, ran amok, in the hope that the Rajput community would believe that BJP cares about their sentiments, its highest leadership maintains silence when Hindus are killed in Kerala, when Ankit was beheaded by fundamentalists or even when Kamlesh Tiwari was languishing in jail for exercising his freedom of expression. Some BJP ‘leaders’ go a step further and play the part of Nehruvian secularists even over Ankit’s dead body. By that, I of course mean Manoj Tewari asking his murder not be ‘communalised’.
While BJP says it stands for Hindus, by not taking a definitive stand on cultural issues that effects every Hindu, it allows divisive elements like say Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani or even a Karni Sena to talk about cultural issues that appease a certain faction. As long as BJP keeps trying to appease factions while ignoring causes that echo with Hindus at large, it’ll keep making a fool of itself. As it has done now, it will keep ceding ground, which is good neither for the larger ideology or for electoral politics.
Principally, BJP can either be a party that claims to stand for law and order, or one that will, like Congress, shut its eyes when it is politically inconvenient. Principally, BJP can either encourage leaders like Yogi Adityanath who stopped Karni Sena violence with an iron fist, or leaders like Haryana CM Khattar, who stood by while the state burnt.
Either way, BJP, as this juncture, has to decide what its core principle and ideology is going to be. If they don’t, they will keep walking into political death traps. The opposition will continually put BJP in a fix with the multiple Hindu factions, and unless BJP makes up its mind to support larger hindu causes and opt for maintaining law and order, no matter what the political price is, it will keep writing its political and ideological obituary like it did this time.
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017