New Delhi: Pragya Singh Thakur may be frequently hitting headlines with her controversial remarks but she remains isolated in the party, with other parliamentarians choosing to stay away from her.
On Wednesday, when the opposition protested in Parliament against a comment she reportedly made about Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse, there wasn’t a single BJP MP who got up to defend her.
Many, in fact, told her to sit down and not interrupt DMK MP A. Raja’s speech during a debate on the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill.
Thakur, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts, might have become the symbol of the BJP’s ideological conviction in the 2019 general elections, but her colleagues in Parliament don’t seem to be very enamoured by her.
ThePrint followed Thakur over a day in Parliament, observing her routine as well as her interactions with other members. What it discovered was a loner who keeps her distance from party and parliamentary colleagues.
She stays by herself and silently watches parliamentary proceedings from her seat in the back rows. Fellow MPs pass by, but without saying a word. Many don’t even acknowledge her.
She brings her own food from home and eats by herself even as other MPs huddle in groups and eat snacks and food from the Parliament canteen.
A close aide, however, said there was nothing out of place with Thakur keeping to herself, saying she was “quite cordial with fellow MPs”.
“She is a sant (seer) and hence doesn’t interact much with people. That is her nature,” the aide added. “She carries her own lunch and comes back home soon after.”
“Her spine is dislocated, which means she can take a fall at times… This is why an attendant is always with her,” the aide added.
Also read: No republication, telecast — what expunction of Pragya Thakur’s Godse remark means for media
‘Nothing in common’
While Thakur has regularly attended Parliament during the ongoing session, she is yet to make a speech.
“She comes quietly from gate number 9 of the Parliament House as she has a problem in her leg and often requires help from her team members,” said a senior BJP leader. “She sits quietly inside Parliament and doesn’t interact with anyone.”
The BJP office on the House premises is one place where party leaders are often seen interacting with each other and cracking jokes.
“Although some have seen her at the BJP office at times, she doesn’t talk even there,” said a BJP MP. “Once the session is over, she leaves quietly. There are times, some MPs greet her but it ends there as they don’t know how to start a conversation with her…”
“It is not just about BJP MPs but parliamentarians from other parties also don’t interact with her,” the MP added.
Allocated seat number 186 in the Lok Sabha, she sits next to fellow MPs and party colleagues Jai Prakash from Hardoi in Uttar Pradesh and Arjun Munda from Jharkhand.
“There are times MPs bump into each other in the corridors and exchange pleasantries but it seems the BJP MPs deliberately ignore her,” said another parliamentarian.
“She’s a first-time MP and naturally doesn’t know many people but no one seems to make an effort,” the MP added.
In the last session, her attendance was over 95 per cent, said a source, noting that “she participated in seven debates… but did not ask a single question during question hour”. “She has also not introduced any private members’ bill,” the source added.
Her parliamentary neighbour and BJP colleague Jai Prakash said they had nothing in common and didn’t interact much.
“She sits on two chairs due to the problem in her legs. We don’t interact because there’s nothing in common between us,” the MP told ThePrint.
Fall from favour
Not long ago, the BJP was looking at grooming Thakur as one of the party’s next-gen leaders. Not without reason.
Flanked by supporters, Thakur was known for her fiery speeches, which also caught the attention of the BJP’s brass as they blended well with the party’s Hindutva agenda.
When her nomination as a BJP candidate for the 2019 polls triggered a furore this April — on account of the fact that she is facing investigation in a terror case — no less than PM Modi jumped to her defence.
“Congress follows a procedure to spread lies and accuses others without any proofs and substance in their accusations…” he said. “I have been accused of many things. If you search social media, you would find lakhs of pages against me. As an effect, even the United States of America denied me a Visa. When the truth was revealed, the US itself sent me an invitation.”
Thakur contested the Lok Sabha polls from Bhopal, against former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh of the Congress. It turned out to be one of the most keenly watched election battles.
Thakur’s nomination was seen as the RSS’ bid to counter what the Hindu Right calls the opposition’s “propaganda” about “Hindu terror” — which refers to alleged terrorist incidents orchestrated against non-Hindus, as the Malegaon blasts are suspected to be.
Digvijaya, who is accused of coining the term “Hindu terror” despite his denials, was defeated by 3.65 lakh votes.
However, the BJP brass’ attitude seemed to undergo a shift after Thakur referred to Godse as a patriot on 16 May, and that too in a year the BJP had big plans to observe Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary.
Earlier, she had made tasteless remarks about former Mumbai Anti-Terror Squad chief Hemant Karkare, who died during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.
She apologised both times, but the party issued a gag order on her, sources said.
When the opposition raised a stink about her comments, the BJP said it had referred the matter to the party’s disciplinary committee. PM Modi has been quoted as saying he would not be able to forgive her for calling Gandhi’s killer a patriot.
The first indications of her being sidelined surfaced last October, when she was kept away from the campaign trail for the assembly bypoll in Madhya Pradesh’s Jhabua.
However, despite Thakur continuing to stoke controversies, she was appointed to a parliamentary consultative committee on defence earlier this month.
In the wake of her latest “gaffe”, she has been removed from the committee and barred from BJP parliamentary party meetings for the remaining winter session.
Also read: Not just Pragya Thakur, BJP disciplinary panel doesn’t really punish any of its leaders
Her candidature was singularly ill advised. People who wish the ruling party well would urge it to remove her from Parliament. Diminishes India’s right to raise the issue of terrorism in global fora.
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