Dharmendra Jore: Sense and sensitivity

Leaders in BJP have started speaking the language their predecessors once used

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) proclaims it’s the party with a difference. One starts believing the claim even more when leaders attempt to add value to the party’s much-publicised description with their respective contributions. As it happens time and again, last week’s honours went to two senior leaders from Maharashtra BJP.

Member of Parliament from North Mumbai, Gopal Shetty, and Maharashtra Minister for Public Works, Chandrakant Patil, made some statements that embarrassed their governments in the Centre and State. The leaders not only showed the ruling party in a poor light, but also put a question mark on their sensitivity towards mankind, especially the distressed farmers who committed suicide because of the agrarian crisis.

Shetty said the farmers’ suicide had become a ‘fashion trend.’ The stunner came when his party’s government told the Bombay High Court that 124 farmers had ended their lives in the state since January 2016. Advocate General Shrihari Aney had told the court that several reasons like crop failure, scant water supply, insufficient capacity to repay loans, and pressure from banks and money lenders forced the farmers to commit suicide.

When his statement snowballed into a big controversy and invited a rap from party seniors, Shetty conveniently shifted the blame to the media for distorting his statement. The MP, who the BJP workers say has become very arrogant after winning Lok Sabha polls with a record margin, stood exposed in television debates because of his lack of knowledge of the farm crisis.

Chandrakant Patil, the other character that caused embarrassment to the BJP, cannot be compared with Shetty when it comes to articulation and debating skills. Still, he made an embarrassing statement while responding to demands raised by agitated drought-affected farmers in Sangli. He said the government did not have a currency-printing machine to dole out relief to farmers.

Patil’s declaration was more shocking and insensitive because he is a hardcore RSS swayamsevak. He kept a very low profile before, but surprised all by para-dropping into the Devendra Fadnavis Cabinet in the winter of 2014. His closeness to party’s national president Amit Shah is seen as his strength that has got him an unparalleled position in the state party, and it is enough to establish why Patil hasn’t been cautioned for making the uncalled for statement.

The trend that Shetty and Patil have set rings an alarm bell for the BJP. The tribe of arrogant leaders in its rank is increasing steadily. The leaders have started speaking the language that their predecessors were once accused of using against the people. It’s a dangerous sign for the government which has clocked a quarter of its full term. CM Fadnavis should take note and take corrective measures, or else he will be the first to bear the brunt of goof-ups committed by his esteemed colleagues in the government, and in the party organisation.

More trouble is brewing for the BJP, which is already under fire in the state and country for several reasons such as the JNU agitation. Allegations of corruption in the CM’s pet project, Jalyukt Shivar, have been made, but neither the government nor the state party unit has responded to them yet. A minister who claimed credit for Jalyukt’s grand success has maintained a studied silence instead of defending the department.

With his utterly casual approach which none of his predecessors ever showed in the past, state unit president Raosaheb Danve is steering the party nowhere. Mumbai chief Ashish Shelar has been playing his role with some novelty in anticipation of a ministerial berth.

Some issues rarely die for the opposition in Maharashtra. Agrarian crisis, lingering drought and socio economic infrastructure will remain challenging sectors for the BJP government in its remaining term till October 2019. Time for the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party to strike back at the BJP which is split, and in a tearing hurry to reap benefits of power?

Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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