The remarks of Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Union Minister of State for Food Processing Industries, at a public meeting in Delhi alluding to religious minorities as illegitimate children, were communal, provocative, and quite out of line for a person holding public office. Her apology was weak, and evidently made under duress, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi advised Bharatiya Janata Party Members of Parliament not to lose their demeanour and to >exercise caution while making public statements. The >“withdrawal” of the remarks , alongside the apology and expression of regret, did little to save the BJP from embarrassment as opposition parties were united in their protest demanding the Minister’s resignation. While senior Ministers, including Arun Jaitley, were quick to denounce the Sadhvi’s remarks, the damage had already been done. An apology, if it is to make any sense, must make the offending statement stand out as an aberration. But from the context of her speech it is evident the remarks were made neither casually nor in the heat of the moment during electioneering. The Sadhvi, who was >inducted into the Council of Ministers in last month’s expansion, seemed blissfully unaware of the responsibilities and expectations that come with high public office. Evidently, she knew her own mind just as well as she knew her audience when she indulged in her communal rhetoric. That she needed to be asked to apologise is in itself indicative of the absence of any remorse on her part.
If the Prime Minister is indeed shocked at the Sadhvi’s choice of words, he should have said so explicitly instead of couching his reprimand in generalities. If he intended to get his no-nonsense message across to his Ministers and MPs, the right course for him would have been to drop Niranjan Jyoti from the Ministry. Criticising the actions without criticising the actor does not go far enough. Actually, the apology seems to have been offered to deflect the attacks of the opposition parties who were demanding her resignation. Niranjan Jyoti brings no particular expertise to the Ministry, and by adamantly refusing to drop her from the Ministry, Mr. Modi is indeed sending encouraging signals to the core Hindutva constituency that she was addressing while making the offensive remarks. The very fact that all the >opposition parties , the Congress, the Left, the Samajwadi Party, the RJD and the Trinamool, have made common cause on this should make the BJP realise there is more to be lost in retaining the Sadhvi as a Minister. The best way for the Prime Minister to distance himself and his party from the Sadhvi’s remarks is to sack her without further loss of time. It is time decency prevailed over considerations of party loyalty.