'It is heartening to know that from Narendra Modi downwards every significant leader in the BJP is angry with the gushers of that nonsense about a 'Hindu Rashtra' or the questioning of Sania Mirza's credentials,' reveals Virendra Kapoor.
It says something of the kind of politics the Shiv Sena has practiced all along that when its MPs indulged in rowdyism they ensured that they had television cameras with them to record their performance for posterity. They had reason to believe that once advertised, their wondrous feats at the New Maharashtra Sadan would win them encomiums back home in the state.
After all, Sena politics has always been about strong-arm tactics, threats, intimidation and, of course, leavened generously with dollops of empty rhetoric about Marathi pride and Hindutva. Yet, even after graduating to sharing power at the Centre the credo of violent street politics has never been shed by Sainiks. That is their calling card, after all.
Having said that, we do not believe that the Sena MPs set out knowingly to vent their violent spleen in the precincts of the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party controlled Maharashtra Sadan only to humiliate a Muslim employee of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Service. Since the 'inedible and insipid' food was being supplied by the IRCTS, the said supervisor bore the brunt of their ire.
There was nothing pre-meditated about targeting him. Not at all. Like any rowdy assembly of college hostelers gathered to pin down the kitchen manager for the rotten fare served in the mess, the honourable MPs zeroed in angrily on the said ICRTS supervisor who happened to be present on the spot.
It is, therefore, unfair, even wrong, to give their conduct a communal twist. No. Like the same college kids unhappy with mess food, the Sena MPs tried to force the 'stone-hard' chapati into the mouth of the supervisor to make the point that it was uneatable. It is so bad he happened to be a Muslim.
Even a visceral hatred of the Sena should not allow us to impart a wholly unwarranted communal colour to the Maharashtra Sadan incident. No sensible person would condone the behaviour of the Sena MPs, even without the latter trying to force-feed the Muslim employee who was observing his Ramzan fast. No. Not even the Sena MPs. You do expect your MPs to behave better than uncouth college hostelers picking up fights on the drop of a hat with the college authorities for real or false grievances.
But then, you cannot expect the likes of Asaduddin Owaisi to refrain from injecting the poison of sectarianism in an incident which was, typically, a reflection of the ingrained Sena habit of taking things in its own hands much to the chagrin of the liberal-civilised classes.
Admittedly, had a Hindu fasting on Janmashtami been a victim of the wrath of a group of secularist MPs, the Sena too would have gone to town, crying murder against the alleged despisers of the Hindu religion.
Minority communalism, you see, feeds on majority communalism. Period.
Owaisi and his ilk need the Sena as much as the Sena needs Owaisi and others who joined him the other day in running to the well of the Lok Sabha, shouting against the Sena and other members for their alleged attempt to interfere with the religious practice of the hapless IRCTS manager.
As for the Congress party, even though badly mauled in the recent Lok Sabha poll, the party pins its hopes on the likes of Owaisi to help it regain some of its lost relevance.
But Owaisi is cleverer. He is unlikely to indulge in his extreme politics for the benefit of the Congress. He is doing it for his family-run All-India Majlis Ittehadul-e-Muslimeen which is set to field candidates in Muslim-dominated constituencies in the upcoming Maharashtra assembly poll.
Another minority outfit, Badruddin Ajmal's All India United Democratic Front, too is set to expand its electoral footprint. That should caution the Congress party against any further dalliance with elements like Owaisi and Ajmal.
A return to true liberal, secular, politics might be the best bet for the Congress to regain traction and also to ensure that extremists like Owaisi remain fringe players in the nation's polity.
The gross misconduct of the Sena MPs has embarrassed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP leadership is angry with its ally, but is unlikely to oblige critics by openly condemning the Sena MPs. Neither the prime minister nor anyone senior in the government is looking to score brownie points by offering criticism of such incidents.
The perpetrators know about the strong prime ministerial disapproval and that is expected to act as a sufficient restraint on potential trouble-makers in the coming days and weeks.
Yes, it is undeniable that the loony fringe feels emboldened after a spectacular electoral victory. Every party, without exception, has its rogue elements. The trick is to keep them under control. To tell them to shut up at the pain of expulsion. Because it is loony, the fringe can be relied upon to misread the message of the huge mandate.
It is heartening to know that from Narendra Modi downwards every significant leader in the BJP is angry with the gushers of that nonsense about a 'Hindu Rashtra' or the questioning of Sania Mirza's credentials -- though the gift of Rs 1 crore (rs 10 million) by the cash-starved Telangana government does seem such a waste.
She would have been proud to be the brand ambassador of Telangana anyway. That Rs 1 crore ought to have been, instead, given to the poor students from Andhra who are now being threatened with expulsion from Hyderabad by the leaders of the new state.
Image: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his top ministers at the swearing-in of the new government, May 16.