By Harshmeet Singh
The beedi baron, BJP MP Shyam Charan Gupta’s recent remarks where he dismissed any connection between smoking and health problems has left the saffron party red faced. Gupta was quoted saying “I can produce a lot of people in front of you who are chain smokers of beedi and till date they have had no disease, no cancer… You get diabetes due to eating sugar, rice, potatoes. Why don’t you write warnings for all these things as well,” Notably, Shyam Charan Gupta is the founder and chairman of Shyam Group of Companies, whose flagship unit is Shyam Beedi.
Seizing the opportunity to corner the government on this matter, the opposition parties highlighted a ‘conflict of interest’ arising from Gupta’s membership in the committee framing laws on tobacco marketing and his tobacco trade. What the opposition parties pointed out was no rocket science. Gupta’s presence in the committee is akin to a criminal being a part of his own jury. The BJP MP from Allahabad, Gupta went on to press his views and asserted that beedis have ‘nil’ adverse effects on the health and there must be separate laws from chewed and smoked tobacco since smoking doesn’t cause any harm. Acting in a damage control mode, Modi suggested the health ministry to enhance the size of pictorial warnings on tobacco products from existing 40% to 65% of the size of the packing.
Unfortunately for the BJP, Shyam Charan Gupta isn’t the only ‘odd man out’ in a group of 281 Lok Sabha MPs and 47 Rajya Sabha MPs. Ever since the BJP stormed to power last year, its MPs have been making news constantly, albeit for the wrong reasons. The ambitious initiatives such as ‘Make in India’ and Clean India campaign lose their sheen when compared with some of the indigenous campaigns run by some BJP MPs including Ghar Wapasi, Love Jihad, Racist attacks on Sonia Gandhi and many others. For the BJP, the party which successfully captured the country’s imagination by fighting the General elections on the plank of clean politics and good governance, these maverick MPs working on self hatched lines pose a bigger threat than the opposition parties.
While campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections, the then PM candidate Narendra Modi openly appealed to the people to vote directly for him and not their local candidates. He promised to consider the entire country his own constituency if he became the PM. Now, more than 10 months after taking oath, the BJP is realizing that it would need much more than Narendra Modi alone to run the country efficiently. The BJP is slowing turning into a video game where the player has to step on the lights on the ground as and when they turn red. With so many lights turning red every second, the PM would find himself much stretched to control the game and cover the lights.
The Vyapam scam
An acronym for ‘Vyavsayik Pareeksha Mandal’ or the ‘Professional Examination Board’, the Vyapam scam diluted the image of BJP’s blue eyed boy, Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Though his name wasn’t directly mentioned in relation to the scam by the SIT, a number of other BJP leaders have been under the limelight for their alleged misuse of power in the scam. Some of the most well known faces associated with this scam include Madhya Pradesh’s ex education minister, Laxmikant Sharma, Governor Ram Naresh Yadav, Ganga rejuvenation minister Uma Bharti. With the Supreme Court directing the SIT to complete its investigations by 15th July, the BJP would be anxiously waiting to face the fate of its leaders.
Meet Sakshi Maharaj, the man who wants Hindu women to have at least four kids. He kicked off another storm by saying that ‘madarsas in the country are teaching terrorism’. Whenever asked about his statements, BJP’s response remains ‘It’s his personal views, not the party’s’. But what the party is forgetting is that it was their leaders that asked the people to vote for Modi and not their local candidate. And since the public obliged them, isn’t it the party’s responsibility to be answerable for their MPs’ actions? The BJP’s reaction to all his actions was a solitary ‘show cause notice’ which ended the matter then and there!
Giriraj Singh knows how to be in the news. He wants to send Modi’s critics to Pakistan. He calls Nitish Kumar a ‘dehati aurat’. And when people thought he had exhausted his repertoire of insane comments, he tweeted this about the deadly school attack in Peshawar – “Whatever is happening in Pakistan is called friendly fight.” The most recent of Singh’s obnoxious comments was about Sonia Gandhi and Congress Party’s love for her fair skin. While he painted the country with a brush of racism, his party said that the matter ended as soon as he offered to apologize to Sonia Gandhi!
Sadly for India and the BJP, this list is not exhaustive. For the BJP, which is hoping to ride on ‘Brand Modi’ for the next 4 years or so, the realization of truth must happen soon or the country would be headed far away from Mr. Modi’s dreams. A ‘swachh BJP’ initiative is perhaps the need of the hour for the BJP!