Pragya Singh Thakur has a knack for hitting the headlines — all for the wrong reasons. On her first day in Parliament, she suffixed the name of her spiritual guru, Swami Purna Chetnanand Avdheshanand Giri, with her own while taking oath. Amid protests from the Opposition, she insisted that it was her full name, even though the affidavit submitted by her while filing nomination papers as the BJP candidate from Bhopal simply mentioned ‘Pragya Singh’. The Malegaon blast accused, who boasts about having been part of the mob that demolished Babri Masjid, has repeatedly left the saffron party red-faced over the past two months. That she has managed to stay on board despite it all shows the party leadership in a poor light.
Soon after joining the BJP in April, Pragya had stated that IPS officer Hemant Karkare was killed during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks as she had ‘cursed’ him for torturing her in custody. The widespread backlash forced her to apologise and retract her shocking comment. Taking a serious note of her hate speeches, the Election Commission had barred her from campaigning for three days. However, the incorrigible Sadhvi stooped to a new low by calling Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse a ‘deshbhakt’. Amid the hue and cry, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had declared that he could never forgive Pragya, but the party stopped short of showing her the door. In a perfunctory move, the high command issued a showcause notice to her and referred the case to the disciplinary committee. The matter seems to have been given a quiet burial as there is no word yet on any follow-up action.
The BJP’s reluctance to crack the whip on rabble-rousing MPs like Pragya and Sakshi Maharaj raises doubts about its intention to usher in ‘positive secularism’. Ruling party members’ obsession with slogans such as ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ and ‘Jai Shri Ram’ is another issue that strikes a discordant note. In the much-touted ‘new India’, there ought to be space for all kinds of patriotic and religious chants.