A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned that arrogance and misbehaviour will not be tolerated, irrespective of “whoever it may be, whoever’s son he may be”, many of those present at a protest against the arrest of Indore-3 MLA Akash Vijayvargiya for assaulting a civic official appeared to have changed tack.
Manasvi Patidar, president of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha’s Indore unit and among those present, said the protest — despite the slogans, posters and speeches — was not in “sarahana” (praise) of Akash Vijayvargiya. “We will follow whatever the party line will be,” he said, “but the protest was not in praise of Akash. It was in protest against the Congress, and how the bureaucracy is tying up with them. Our fight is with the Congress and Kamal Nath, and that will continue.”
Some party leaders still speak for Akash, such as former MLA Jitu Jirati, but if earlier it came from a place of praise, now it comes from sympathy. “Akash is inexperienced, a first-time MLA. But he has paid for his mistake. The law has done its work and he spent five days in jail,” Jirati said.
Modi’s remarks, made during a BJP Parliamentary Party meeting on Tuesday, was seen as a message against Akash, son of party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who was released on Sunday, five days after his arrest.
In Delhi, the state unit’s failure to act against Akash even 36 hours after Modi’s critical remarks has sparked serious internal discussions in the party. While a section of BJP leaders insist that the state unit should take action immediately, as the Prime Minister sent a stern message, others blamed MP unit president Rakesh Singh and state in-charge Ramlal for the delay in disciplinary action against the MLA.
A BJP leader from MP said, “It is up to the state president. He should have taken action against the MLA, which could have avoided such an embarrassment for Kailash Vijayvargiya-ji. Had they initiated action after the issue became a national controversy, the PM would not have expressed displeasure so intensely.”
In Indore, city unit chief Gopi Krishna Nema said no message for action to be taken against Akash has come from Delhi. “We don’t have the stature to opine on what the PM has said. He is the biggest leader of BJP. We will follow whatever instructions he gives. Until now, there have been no instructions…. Whenever a message comes, we will follow.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the BJP’s Indore headquarters was unusually quiet. Both the meeting room and media room were shut, and no party leader was present. Less than a hundred metres away, Akash Vijayvargiya’s two-storey office had only a smattering of people.
Akash has not left home for the last two days, and members of his team said, “He does not want to speak on this issue.”
While they refused to speak on record, senior Indore BJP members said Modi’s statement may have been well intended, but has “disturbed” the perception management. Conceding that Akash’s move to assault a civic official “may have been wrong”, a senior Indore BJP leader said, “He was always seen as soft, without stomach for a fight. This (incident) changed his image — people here liked what he did. After he went to jail, the party galvanised, and the issue turned to corruption in IMC, or that Akash was protecting the poor. But this message from PM has made all that irrelevant. People will now think if PM has spoken out against him, he must have done something wrong.”
Within local leaders, there is also the fear of action. Pointing out that Modi has called for action against even those celebrating Akash’s release, a BJP youth leader said, “We thought that was what the party and Vijayvargiya-ji wanted. Nothing will happen to Akash — he is son of Kailash Vijayvargiya, who is important for them (BJP) in West Bengal. But if they want to send a message, and some action is taken, then perhaps they will act against us?” —Inputs from ENS New Delhi