BJP MP Pragya Thakur has done it again, and this time, inside the hallowed halls of the Parliament. On Wednesday, she raked up a fresh controversy by calling Nathuram Godse, the man who shot Mahatma Gandhi to death, a “deshbhakt” in the Lok Sabha.
The terror-accused, motormouth MP from Bhopal is known for her divisive, communal and sometimes bizarre remarks. This time she upstaged her own self, but it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
So what really happened?
A video from the Lok Sabha on Wednesday shows DMK MP A. Raja quoting Godse. While he reads out the quote, Thakur interrupts him, and is heard bellowing at him from the Treasury benches: “Deshbhakton ka naam nahin lenge aap (You cannot speak about patriots).”
This triggered an uproar in Parliament as MPs opposed Thakur’s statement.
The shock and anger at Thakur’s remarks ensured it dominated primetime television debates as well as social media.
On Thursday, the Congress staged a walkout of the Lok Sabha. Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said in Parliament, “Congress was called a terrorist party (by BJP MP Pragya Thakur), the party from which thousands of leaders made sacrifices for freedom of nation.What’s happening? Will the House stay silent on this? Mahatma Gandhi’s killer was called ‘deshbhakt’.”
The BJP said that Thakur would be barred from the BJP MPs’ meet and that she would be dropped from the parliamentary defence panel led by Rajnath Singh.
However, the BJP was initially dismissive of the allegation. The first reaction over the incident came from parliamentary affairs minister Prahlad Joshi, who said, “According to Pragya Thakur, she has not said anything about or supported Nathuram Godse, she was only talking about Udham Singh, the revolutionary who killed General Dyer,” Joshi told PTI.
Journalists and others present in Parliament called out the lie.
By Thursday morning, the BJP had to change its stand amid uproar in Parliament.
No lessons learnt?
Thakur has been a controversial figure from the word go. The BJP gave her a party ticket for the Lok Sabha elections even though she was an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast that killed eight people. Thakur is currently out on bail. The BJP has maintained that she was falsely implicated in the case.
She is the first terror accused MP to be sent to Parliament.
Thakur had made similar comments about Godse earlier. In reply to actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan calling Godse the first extremist of independent India, had said, “Nathuram Godse was a ‘deshbhakt’, is a ‘deshbhakt’ and will remain a ‘deshbhakt’. People calling him a terrorist should instead look within, such people will be given a befitting reply in these elections.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after Thakur’s public apology, had said he would never be able to forgive her. On the day of the swearing-in, Modi warned his freshly elected netas to be mindful of the statements that they made in public.
But that did not deter Thakur. She has made many controversial remarks since she was elected to Parliament. She caused an uproar in Parliament during the oath-taking ceremony when she wanted to add the suffix Swami Purna Chetnanand Avdheshanand Giri to her name.
Her warped sense of what it means to be an MP was at display when she told BJP workers in Madhya Pradesh, “So keep this in mind...We are not here for cleaning a drain. Is it clear?. We are absolutely not (here) for cleaning your toilets. The work which we are supposed to do and elected for, we will do it honestly. This we had said in the past, saying it today and stick to it in future as well.”
Things went further south when, after the deaths of BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, she blamed it on the opposition. “While I was contesting (Lok Sabha) elections, a Maharaj ji told me that bad times are upon us and Opposition is up to something using some ‘marak shakti’ against BJP. I later forgot what he said but now when I see our top leaders leaving us one by one, I am forced to think, wasn’t Maharaj ji right?, Thakur said.
But none of this stopped the BJP and its top leaders Modi and Amit Shah from putting her the parliamentary panel on defence.
Amid the uproar against Thakur, ”#well_done_pragya” started trending on Twitter, with several people coming out in support of Thakur. Some of the people who were tweeting with this hashtag were followed by the prime minister himself.
The BJP’s giving a ticket itself to the controversial Thakur should have been a warning bell for voters. While just before elections, the PM made an attempt to distance himself from her, the party’s actions since then do not inspire any confidence that it will act on the outrage.