The sustained disruption of the Rajya Sabha over the provocative remarks of Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti proves yet again that we are a nation of sore losers. Far from seeking to win and try harder, we are more keen to see that the current winner does not gain from it.
After defeats in 2004 and 2009, the BJP was a disruptive force in parliament. It could not digest its loss and turned out to be a sore loser. Now, it is the turn of politicians from UP, Bihar and West Bengal, two of them humbled in their own backyards in May 2014, and a third worrying about what may happen in 2016, to turn even sorer losers. They will ensure a chaotic parliament.
If the BJP was a poor loser in 2004 and 2009, its current opposition is triply sore because not only did they lose, but they lost to the one man who they didn't want to lose to: Narendra Modi. And worse, the electorate actually handed him a majority in the Lok Sabha – the first time this has happened in 30 years.
This denting of huge egos by the man they had used consistently to burnish their own "secular" credentials is what makes the sore losers of the opposition belligerent thrice over. Having lost comprehensively, they now want to deny any achievement to the Modi government. Instead of trying to introspect on where they went wrong, they want to prove to the electorate that they voted wrong.
So, let's be clear: if there was no Sadhvi to vent their spleen on, the opposition would have invented one. Any cow not yielding milk in Varanasi will be attributed to Modi's diabolical communalism. Having pinned authorship of the 2002 riots on Modi, no proof is ever required about calling him communal.
Now, consider the Sadhvi case itself. While no one can defend those utterances, the fact is abuse and incitement to hatred has not been a monopoly of the Sangh or BJP alone. It is now claimed that since she was not just an MP, but a minister, her crimes are worse. This is certainly true, but has Modi not been called every possible name not only by MPs but senior ministers too? Who called him Bhasmasur or napunsak? Or "maut ka saudagar?" Or Hitler? Just humble MPs or senior ministers and the Congress party brass? Who called him the "Butcher of Gujarat?" Was it not the same gentlemen who is now frothing at the mouth about what the Sadhvi said?
After the Sadhvi has apologised, and the Prime Minister has himself chastised her for speech, the opposition is still in no mood to give up. If the minister is not sacked, the house must pass a resolution condemning such hate speeches.
This is disingenuous. How is it ever going to be possible to give meaning to such a resolution? If not Giriraj Singh or the Sadhvi, someone or the other — whether in the BJP or outside it — can be guaranteed to say stupid things like these sometime or the other. Just as conservative men will continue to make misogynist statements, and will continue to do so till they learn otherwise over the next decade or two, passing a resolution that men will not say stupid things is not going to do any good. Can the Tapas Pauls of Trinamool be stopped from threatening rape, or the Akbaruddin Owaisis from anti-Hindu hate speeches, or some minister from the Akhilesh Yadav cabinet from claiming only Muslims won the Kargil war?
In diverse and insecure India, nobody can prevent such hate or provocative statements. We need to become richer and more mature as a democracy before that happens. What we need to do in the interim is express contrition, pull up the person concerned, invoke the law against real hate speeches, and move on. Trying to go for the kill every time someone speaks nonsense will blunt the instrument of genuine outrage.
Let's also not forget, religious beliefs, by their very nature, are divisive. When a religion can decree death for apostasy or divide people into believers and non-believers and where conversion merchants can rubbish other religions as abominations, hate is embedded in their utterances. So to expect politicians, some of whom wear their religious identity on their sleeves, to be completely above hate speech is unrealistic.
The only ways to combat these tendencies are the following: locally build inter-community groups to combat bigotry and bridge the gulf between communities; use the law to prosecute the worst cases; define hate speeches more clearly; and address the insecurities of various communities through dialogue and reconciliation – and this means not only the minorities, but the “majority” community too. Having used caste to divide the so-called majority, the majority in India is as insecure as the minorities.
Meanwhile, those who have made a living out of “secularism” will continue to milk the issue and disrupt parliament as long as they can. I doubt if the electorate is going to humour sore losers. It is only a matter of time before they realise their folly. Meanwhile, the government has to move its agenda in incremental doses till its strength in the Rajya Sabha moves closer to the tipping point.
The NDA clearly needs a better back-channel strategy for the Rajya Sabha. It has to get the Congress party to back it on some deals (the insurance legislation, for example), and the other non-UP/Bihar/Bengal parties (BJD, AIADMK) for others.
The NDA should use the fact that the losers of 2014 are themselves divided into sore losers (Congress) and sorer losers (the Lalu-Mulayam-Nitish-Mamata) alliance of convenience. The Congress faces a threat from the latter as they have the ability to hijack the opposition space and make it extinct.
The NDA should play one sore loser against the other.
The writer is editor-in-chief, digital and publishing, Network18 Group