BJP jettisons moral police chief Muthalik
In what can only be described as bizarre, the Karnataka unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party inducted Pramod Muthalik, notorious leader of the Sri Ram Sene which had attacked women in a pub in Mangalore in 2009 as part of its moral policing, into its fold — for all of five hours. Following national outrage and sharp criticism that came from within, including from Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who said he would ask the central leadership to set aside the shocking induction, the party swiftly and unceremoniously jettisoned Mr Muthalik. It must be said to the credit of the party's central leadership that it took a quick call to correct the wrong. Clearly, the BJP's local leaders in Karnataka, including State party leaders such as Prahalad Joshi, Jagadish Shettar and KS Eshwarappa had acted in a burst of mistaken belief that the Sri Ram Sene supremo's inclusion in the party would fetch it electoral gains. This never was true. And even if it were, that should not have been a justification to entertain a person of Mr Muthalik's reputation. The activities of the fringe group, especially the mayhem it let loose in Mangalore four years ago when its supporters went about roughing up women at a local pub and thereafter gloating about the incident, had led to a massive uproar across the country. It must be remembered that the BJP had strongly condemned the attack. It was, therefore, shocking that certain State leaders should have thought it fit to rope in the Sene leader into their fold. It is difficult to believe that the Karnataka leaders had kept the senior central leadership of the party in the loop, when they decided to welcome Mr Muthalik and greeted him with sweets at a well-publicised induction ceremony. While the BJP's national leaders contained the damage before the matter could escalate into an even bigger embarrassment, the episode did provide the opponents a talking point.
It is not just the act of violence that members of the Sene led by Mr Muthalik had indulged in against the pub-goers, which made the outfit and its leaders unfit for the BJP. The party is in the process of relentlessly wooing the younger generation of voters across the country, and indications are that these voters are rapidly connecting with prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and his mantra of development and inclusive growth. It, therefore, made no sense for the BJP to accept the likes of Mr Muthalik, who stands for everything socially degenerative that the politically young and forward-looking voters abhor. It is one thing for individuals like Mr Muthalik to support candidates of a particular political party, but it is quite another for that party to honour them with membership.
Now that the issue has been resolved with the BJP ending Mr Muthalik's membership, the party's central leadership should ensure that similar embarrassments do not happen in the coming days — and certainly not in the run-up to the Lok Sabha election — by directing its State units to exercise restraint and cross-check with it before taking a plunge which could lead the party to lose face, not just at the local level but also nationally. Meanwhile, rivals of the BJP must stop flogging an issue that is settled.