It has finally happened. Almost two days after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won just eight of the 70 seats in the Delhi elections, 37 short of his prediction, home minister Amit Shah has said that hate remarks such as “goli maaro” and “India-Pakistan match” should not have been made during the campaign.
Such remarks may have resulted in the party’s defeat in the elections, he admitted during a programme organised by Times Now.
Union minister Anurag Thakur had encouraged a crowd to chant the incendiary slogan during a rally in Delhi, later telling The Indian Express that he had merely asked people what should be done with traitors of the country. He did not face any official rebuke from the BJP.
BJP’s candidate Kapil Mishra, who lost from the Model Town constituency, had raised the same “goli maaro” slogan during rallies in support of the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in December. After a video of him shouting the slogan surfaced on social media, Mishra told The Indian Express that he stood by it. The BJP had then distanced itself from Mishra, but gave him a ticket for the Delhi elections last month.
Despite his statement last month that Shaheen Bagh protesters “will rape, kill your sisters”, BJP MP Parvesh Verma was allowed to initiate a debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address in the Lok Sabha.
Even discounting the party’s tacit and active encouragement of leaders who made all attempts to polarise the Delhi electorate, Shah’s comments are ironic because, as Frontline has pointed out, the Home Minister led this hate campaign. At a rally in Delhi, he had said that people should press the EVM button with such anger that the protesters in Shaheen Bagh “feel the current”.
When asked about his remark on Shaheen Bagh at the Times Now event, Shah said it wasn’t about actually electrocuting someone. “It’s a matter of explaining that victory (in elections) is related to an ideology”.
He also said that elections are not just for victory or defeat for the BJP, but about expanding its ideology.
Rahul Verma, a fellow at Centre for Policy Research, had told HuffPost India last week that the provocative remarks made by several BJP leaders were not merely intended to win them votes.
“Notwithstanding the result, each election campaign provides the BJP leadership with an opportunity to push the ideological framework governing party politics in India. This not only enthuses the party’s core support base but also to attract new voters to its fold,” he had said.
Last year, the BJP had fielded Malegaon-blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur from Bhopal in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. After Her remarks on Gandhi’s killer Nathuram Godse created a major controversy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he would not forgive Thakur for calling Godse a “patriot”.
Her candidature was, however, not withdrawn and she won from Bhopal.