Prof. Y Satyanarayana
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Shakespeare's immortal words could well be true of politicians and their times. For now, the dust appears to have settled down on a storm which was kicked up needlessly by some BJP lawmakers and seems to have ended with the ruling party scoring a major political self goal. If there was indeed one thing the party could have done without, it is the Taj Mahal controversy.
Apart from all the sound and fury surrounding demonetisation and GST, the twin issues which have been pilloried by the opposition and fiercely defended by the BJP, its members have waded into all sorts of needless controversies, the latest of which was the one around the Taj Mahal.
If a gag order was ever needed, it probably is for BJP functionaries and some of its people's representatives. Rabble-rousing of the sort which not only dents the party's image, but creates social discord should be seriously discouraged by the leadership. The UP lawmaker Sangeet Som's chacterisation of Mughal emperors as traitors and the Taj Mahal as a 'blot on Indian culture' was yet another early trigger which kicked up this avoidable firestorm. Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi always has his 'finger on the draw'as they say, and he lost no time in throwing posers at PM Modi as to whether he would not unfurl the tiranga or the tricolour from the ramparts of the Red Fort because it had been built by 'traitors'.
Two days later, BJP MP,Vinay Katiyar upped the ante further by reminding us of the historian, P.N. Oak's book on the Taj Mahal in which he claimed that it was built over an ancient Shiva temple. His statement only served to stoke the raging fire further, attracting all-round criticism. UP Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath stepped in to control the damage being caused by his partymen and characterised the Taj as a monument built by the "blood, sweat, and tears of Indians" and that it is our duty to maintain and preserve it. He is reported to have asked Sangeet Som to issue a clarification on his controversial statement--one does not recall seeing one, though.
On his part, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that a nation would lose its identity if it did not take pride in its culture, in an oblique reference to statements of the kind made by Som. It is for the BJP leadership to introspect on the issue and ensure there is no repeat of avoidable controversies which can only mar its image further.
The party can ill-afford to forget the time-honoured adage that power comes with responsibility. PM Modi drove the party to success in the 2014 election promising 'better days' (achhe din) and development for all (sab ka saath, sab ka vikas). It is about time that he reins in some of the firebrand leaders in his party who seem to be proving to be detrimental to the manner in which he wants the party to be widely perceived. Politics is a lot about optics and it is not as if Modi or Shah are unaware of this. The party has barely recovered from being associated with beef-bans and mob lynchings when its loudmouth leaders create a debate where none was needed and the result is that the good done by the government in some areas is eclipsed.
For instance, the Modi government has come up with new integrated transportation initiative for roads, railways, waterways and civil aviation. Power, defence and railways are other sectors where the ruling party has brought in some commendable reforms. MEA in spite of the frosty relations we have with China and Russia, has performed very well. Similarly, Sagarmala and Bharatmala programmes for the construction of new ports and expressways are worth talking about and party leaders should publicize them. Instead, they seem obsessed with a distant glorious past or a medieval period which may have facets they dislike.