Obfuscation is part of military science, as the Mahabharata story about Ashwathama informs us. Recent observations of the top tier of the ruling party appear to have extended this to the electoral battlefield and the wider ambit of politics. This is evident from observations of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah not so long ago in the context of the CAA-NRC, and the recently held election to the Delhi Assembly. Indeed, the two appear to have been closely linked since the BJP campaign for the Assembly election in Delhi was focused on the specific issue of CAA-NRC and punishing the peaceful protesters of Shaheen Bagh.
Of the PM’s memorable statements made at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan in the wake of the CAA-NRC protests that have shaken up the country, one is recalled with particular emphasis by ruling party spokesmen and cadres — that the National Register of Citizens (which is so intrinsically tied to the CAA in a particular “chronology”, to quote the home minister) has not once been considered officially by his government, thus suggesting that the protests against NRC are an artifice, a low tactic of the BJP’s opponents to rally public opinion on a false premise.
Fact-checkers immediately set about the relatively easy task of showing this was not the case. President Ram Nath Kovind’s address to a joint session of the two Houses of Parliament was fished out. It revealed the government’s intention to make the NRC a reality. When the NRC comes up for discussion now, BJP-RSS spokesmen have found a new technique to play their hand. They say this is not “yet” on the menu. They no longer deny it outright.
Just like his leader, the home minister resorted to outright denial in order to get out of an unenviable situation at a media event in the national capital on Thursday. In the recent poll campaign in Delhi, he asserted — in response to a question — that no one had spoken of “bahu-betiyon ka balatkar” or the “rape of women” (in Hindu homes by those protesting at Shaheen Bagh). Such an observation by one of BJP’s most significant leaders in a generation is apt to cause surprise as millions of Indians have seen on their television screens the BJP’s MP from West Delhi rant exactly on those lines at a poll meeting. He was castigating Muslims by implication and seeking to demonise the Shaheen Bagh protesters.
It is noteworthy that after such an execrable remark he was not de-rostered by the BJP as its lead speaker in the debate on the motion of thanks on the President’s address in the Lok Sabha. It is no less remarkable that the home minister, who conceived and led his party’s failed Delhi campaign, did not see it fit to have the man arrested for his inflammatory ravings, causing enmity amongst the people.
It is evident that Mr Shah was obliged to fudge about his MP’s words precisely because this MP was chosen to expound on the BJP’s ideology in Parliament. The gold standard of leadership is met when top bracket politicians are true to responsibilities set by their office. Seeking the softer way out is for lesser beings.