A day after the Supreme Court transferred all cases connected to the 2017 rape of a minor girl in Unnao to a Delhi court, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to be in a damage control mode by distancing itself from the rape accused MLA.
The party had come under sharp criticism for its inaction on Uttar Pradesh’s four-time MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who is accused of raping the minor girl in 2017. Though the party said it has expelled the MLA, political observers believe that the incident has already done enough damage to the party, which takes pride in its core values of “organizational discipline and punctuality.”
Taking potshots at the opposition, BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh, GVL Narasimha Rao tells Outlook that the party has taken steps to rein in the lawmaker. “The BJP took prompt action against the MLA last year itself when allegations were levelled. Whereas other parties have been found to be wanting to act against such members, the BJP showed sincerity. Allegations by parties like SP (Samajwadi Party) and Congress are laughable.”
Rao says that the Opposition has no locus standi to criticise the BJP.
“Samajwadi Party refused to arrest Gayatri Prajapati when it was ordered by the Supreme Court and took no action against him. Congress party refused to act against unscrupulous elements leading a national spokeswoman's resignation. They have no locus standi to even criticize the BJP,” he adds.
But political analysts opine that the Unnao incident has tarnished the image of the party as it failed to take timely action against its member. Political commentator Ajoy Bose says the party should have shown more concern in the beginning and the expulsion was a delayed action.
“Overall, it looks bad for the state government and it reflects on the central government as well. It’s a question of moral outrage. There was no outrage on such a horrible act. The party needed to show much more concern. The expulsion came after much hue and cry. Till then, party was on a defensive mood. This is where the public image is suffering,” says Bose.
He also says that the incident shows poorly on the UP government. “It’s embarrassing and bad for the BJP’s image. The case is a terrible indictment of the Yogi Adityanath government. It is the question of how entire administration functions,” he adds.
However, BJP leader Nalin Kohli refutes the arguments.
“It’s a crime done by an individual, who is an elected representative. BJP acted immediately first by suspending him. Secondly, he was jailed by a BJP government. And we stand by the CBI, which is under the central government,” says Kohli.
Kohli also said that it’s important to delink religious ideology from the crime. “It’s wrong to say that this crime is committed because of the ideology of the BJP. It’s a dangerous argument, because then crimes taking place across the world, by the same logic, will be linked to some religion and not the individual,” he says.
BJP’s Uttar Pradesh spokesperson Harish Chandra Srivastava tells Outlook that the government will ensure that the girl gets justice.
“It’s a painful incident. The government is committed to provide justice to the girl. Whoever is guilty should be punished. We have transferred the compensation as per the Supreme Court's direction,” says Srivastava.
However, when the question was put to the leaders about the prevailing confusion over the suspension of Sengar, Srivastava said the party president can throw light on the details.
The party has also come under severe criticism from activists and opposition on its failure to provide security to the rape survivor and its family. Days before the accident, the survivor had written a letter to the Supreme Court expressing concerns about her safety. On Thursday, three security guards, deployed for the protection of the survivor, were suspended. However, the party denies charges of any negligence.
“We had provided security from the beginning. We need to find out why the constables didn’t travel with the family on that day. Only the girl and lawyer can answer that after they regain consciousness,” says Srivastava.
The Unnao incident comes as a huge embarrassment to the party at a time when it is embarking on an exercise of 'discipline' classes for BJP lawmakers from this weekend. But this is not the first incident which has put the party in a tight spot in the second innings of the Narendra Modi government.
The actions of party’s Bhopal MP Pragya Singh Thakur and Aakash Vijayvargiya, son of BJP’s national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, have left the party red-faced earlier.
Pragya’s statement that she had “not been elected to clean drains and toilets” had forced the party to warn her about disciplinary actions.
Earlier, her comments on Maharashtra anti-terror officer Hemant Karkare put the party in an awkward situation. She said that Karkare died because of her curse during the Mumbai terror attack. Also her description of Godse as "a true patriot" came as an embarrassment to the party.
Though the Prime Minister pulled up Aakash Vijayvargiya, who was caught on camera hitting a government official, no action has been taken against him so far.