Under fire for the incendiary remarks made by party leaders on the Dadri lynching, BJP president Amit Shah on Sunday summoned four senior leaders — Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan, party MP Sakshi Maharaj and MLA from Uttar Pradesh Sangeet Som — and served a gag order on them.
The summons arrived early in the morning, and the meeting was a short one. And while the gag order was delivered behind closed doors, the knowledge that it was being done made it as public a rebuke as it could be. While Mr. Khattar was the latest in a long line of BJP leaders to make >controversial remarks , the others had consistently been making statements over the past three weeks creating controversies, without attracting censure from the leadership.
Top sources in the party said Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally had a word with Mr. Shah, and the rebuke was handed down.
“It was made very clear to these people — and through the public way in which the rebuke was handed down, to others as well — that this had to stop. These leaders had made what was clearly a dereliction of duty on the part of the Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka a BJP issue for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi was being held responsible,” said a senior source in the party.
“It distracts from the agenda of governance and any good work the government is doing,” he added.
After the meeting, Mr. Som and Mr. Balyan refused to comment, saying that the party chief “had discussed various issues.”
This is, however, not the first such dressing-down to be delivered to erring leaders.
Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said in an interview to The Hindu last week that the Prime Minister had asked him to tone down his rhetoric on the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq and other issues. A few months ago, Mr. Sakshi Maharaj himself had been served a show-cause notice for unseemly remarks on Hindu women and their fertility.
Party sources are still holding their breath on whether the dressing-down will help to silence the controversial comments from their leaders.
The Congress termed the gag order a “gimmick” and a mere formality. “What is the point of closing the door after the horse has bolted? For 18 months, such divisive and provocative statements and actions have been recurring with monotonous regularity. It is obviously an empty formality. Mr. Modi has still not found time and continues to practise deafening silence,” spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.
Another Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit linked Sunday’s action to the Bihar polls. “These people are not relevant there [in Bihar]. The BJP is now looking for excuses to say why they will lose in Bihar. All reports coming from Bihar indicate that the mahagathbandhan [grand alliance] will win a majority,” he said.