Several victims of the Delhi riots have blamed him for instigating the violence. At least two Delhi BJP MPs have criticised him for “hate speech”. But a glance at the Twitter timeline of Kapil Mishra, AAP rebel-turned-BJP leader, shows that his strategy of half-claiming credit and half-playing the victim is still going strong.
A few hours ago, Mishra tweeted that the same people who supported Burhan Wani and Yakub Memon were trying to brand him a “terrorist”. Scroll down, and you’ll find that Mishra has retweeted several tweets praising him for “taking on” the anti-CAA protesters. On Monday, a day after he issued an open threat to the Delhi Police, there was a wink-wink-nudge-nudge appeal to the rioters for maintaining peace. On Tuesday night, in a since-deleted tweet, he expressed happiness at the peaceful protesters at Jafrabad being evicted.
Whatever Mishra’s strategy is, it’s working. The Economic Times has reported that Manoj Tiwari and Gautam Gambhir, the two BJP MPs who have criticised Mishra so far, have been “virtually isolated” in the party.
The Delhi Police has been acting like it can’t see or hear Mishra’s provocations, though his infamous speech on Sunday was delivered in the presence of Ved Prakash Surya, the DCP (Northeast) of Seelampur. The Delhi high court on Wednesday had to ask for a clip of Mishra’s speech to be played in the courtroom after DCP (crime branch) Rajesh Deo claimed that he had not seen it.
So far, so safe. And this immunity is likely to continue.
Apart from making vague noises about maintaining peace and calm, the BJP has not set much of a precedent for punishing hate speech by its members. Even its two top leaders, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, routinely make hateful comments that act as dog whistles to supporters.
Rahul Verma, a fellow at the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, said that the chances of the BJP leadership voluntarily acting against Mishra are slim.
“The party can suspend him, but that’s unlikely as similar remarks have been made by many other BJP leaders and no action has been taken against them. There are many people within the party who think Mishra is right, and the BJP would not want to antagonise its core base,” said Verma.
The BJP’s second option would be to deny Mishra an election ticket, but that is so far in the future that these incidents would be forgotten by then, Verma added.
He added that one way out for the BJP leadership—if it is inclined to punish Mishra—would be if the police or the courts charge him or pull him up.
Mishra could not be reached over the phone for his comments, but in a tweet, he reacted with defiance to the Delhi high court asking the police to register FIRs against hate speech.
“It is our right to clear roads. I have not violated any laws,” he tweeted.
Rewarded for ‘Goli maaro’
Mishra, who joined the BJP last year, gets the credit for introducing the ‘Goli Maaro Saalon Ko’ slogan into the rioters’ lexicon. He was rewarded with an assembly election ticket by the BJP last month, but lost to AAP’s Akhilesh Pati Tripathi by over 11,000 votes.
Though the Delhi BJP had distanced itself from Mishra’s slogan and the resulting controversy at the time, several party leaders, including a Union minister, were later seen encouraging their supporters to chant the same slogan.
Political analyst Sajjan Kumar pointed out that the BJP’s history shows that it has always fielded a relatively liberal (within its ecosystem) face along with a hardcore leader on the Hindutva plank, giving the examples of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani and more recently, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. So it was unsurprising that Mishra was going unpunished even as voices such as Tiwari and Gambhir made an attempt to criticise him.
“Maybe he will be reprimanded or warned, but beyond that, expectations that the BJP will take any action against him are unwarranted,” said Kumar, who is associated with research organisation Peoples Pulse.
Of course, what passes for ‘liberal’ within the BJP changes fast, given that party leaders like Pragya Thakur and Yogi Adityanath keep lowering the bar. So it should not be a surprise if Mishra—whom analyst Kumar described as “relatively small fry”—is soon perceived as more liberal than his cohorts.