The BJP’s strident defence of Varun Gandhi‘s hate speech in Pilibhit, and its open defiance of the Election Commission’s advisory to it to deny him a party ticket, opens up a simple question: Has the “party with a difference” endeared itself to voters across the nation with its stand, or has it shot itself in both its feet?
There are plenty of legitimate points the party has raised: the EC’s over-eagerness in this case without giving the hate-monger a fair hearing; its technical expertise to adjudge the veracity of the video; and above all, the EC’s lack of a similar advisory to the Congress (which has the 1984 Sikh riots’ accused Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar in its ranks), and the Samajwadi Party (Sanjay Dutt with his conviction in the 1993 Bombay blasts’ case).
Nevertheless, there is such a thing as public perception and a good question to ask of a party which is said to be be on the backfoot in the coming elections, is: having initially expressed disapproval of Varun Gandhi’s remarks and its resolve to stick to the model code of conduct, has it missed a trick in so publicly backing religion-based hatred?
Would the BJP have gained in stature if it had acceded to the EC’s censure and shown the nation that it is different from the Congress? Would the BJP’s national acceptance have grown had it signalled that it was against spreading hate and enmity on grounds of religion? Or, is the party, which depends on the lunatic fringe in the saffron brotherhood for sustenance, right in sticking to its “core competency”?