Union minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyothi was forced to apologise on the floor of Lok Sabha after making uncharitable statements about religious minorities. Speaking at a small gathering of Bharatiya Janata Party supporters in Delhi, Niranjan said that all Christians and Muslims were sons of Ram and those who did not accept this dictum did not believe in the idea of India. Such statements go against the Bharatiya Janata Party’s slogan during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, where it harped on the idea of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikaas’.
It is an abuse of democracy and to the millions of people from different religions, who hold the idea of secularism dear to their hearts. Despite her apology, this event has allowed opposition parties to unite in their demand for her resignation. Though senior leaders from the BJP have expressed regret over her remark, the central government seems less inclined to fire her. It is not the first time that leaders of the BJP have been accused of making such divisive statement. Before the Lok Sabha elections, senior BJP leader and current union minister Giriraj Singh had said that those who did not vote for Narendra Modi should be sent to Pakistan.
The difference, however, in Niranjan’s case is that her comments were made, while she held a constitutional post. The minister’s remarks are against the secular ethos espoused by the Constitution and do not behold a person occupying a union ministerial post. It was no surprise that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reportedly chided her for making such statements. At an earlier meeting of the BJP’s parliamentary group, Modi had reportedly told his ministers to be careful, while speaking in public. Clearly, the minister did not get the memo. The offence committed by Sadhvi Niranjan has hit the party on multiple levels.
The statement has arrived in the thick of elections in Jharkhand and Jammu & Kashmir. The party has been trying hard to restrict the political discourse to development. Such comments, however, did not help the BJP’s cause.