Pragya Thakur, the saffron-clad BJP MP from Bhopal, is back in the limelight following her nomination to the parliamentary consultative committee on defence. The Congress has termed it an insult “to our nation’s defence forces, to our nation’s esteemed parliamentarians and to every Indian”. The Opposition contends that Thakur is a dismal choice for the defence panel since she faces trial in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case, in which six people were killed. The ruling party is yet to respond to the criticism.
However, the controversy has drawn attention yet again to the action the BJP promised to take against her — and did not take — following her deeply offensive remarks in support of Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi. Campaigning in Bhopal during the general election earlier this year, Thakur had said that “Nathuram Godse was a patriot, is a patriot, and will remain a patriot. those who call him a terrorist should look within. they will get a reply in this election”. She found support from at least two BJP MPs from Karnataka, Union minister Anantkumar Hegde and Nalin Kumar Kateel. Following widespread outrage, the party made her withdraw the statement and apologise. BJP president Amit Shah said he had initiated disciplinary action, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that he would not be able to forgive Thakur for her remarks insulting Gandhi. Of course, the promised disciplinary action never happened. But Thakur went on to call Jawaharlal Nehru a “criminal” and attributed the death of decorated police officer Hemant Karkare during the 26/11 terror strike to her “curse”.
Members of Parliament are nominated by the ministry of parliamentary affairs to consultative panels, which, unlike standing committees, have a minimal role in influencing policies, on the recommendation of their respective parties. All legislators are likely to make it to some parliamentary panel or the other on the basis of being an MP, and as per their preference. In the case of Thakur, however, the BJP seems caught in a predicament of its own making. It first offered a ticket to Parliament to a person who stands accused of a grave crime and who has, at the very least, shown no respect for the democratic process. And then it has done nothing to follow up on its own top leaders’ public criticism of Thakur. The presence of Pragya Thakur MP in Parliament, and now on a parliamentary panel, can be seen as a reproach to a party that has sworn to uphold the Constitution, in letter and in spirit.