State BJP President Bansidhar Bhagat scored an own goal when he made an inappropriate comment against Leader of the Opposition Dr Indira Hridayesh at a party meeting. In the age of social media, the video was being seen and commented upon almost immediately, to the great chagrin of the party. Corrective action was taken late on the same night by Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, who not only apologised unconditionally but promised to meet Hridayesh to do so in person. This has restored the political fine line that cannot be crossed in public life.
Bhagat and Hridayesh have been political rivals for decades in the Haldwani area. The recent successes of the BJP have probably gone to Bhagat’s head, as has his recent rise to eminence as the state BJP Chief. Unfortunately, the matter cannot rest here and not just because the Congress has found an issue to exploit. Bhagat’s comment underlines the fact that a woman remains vulnerable even if she has risen to the highest political positions. Every time an incident like this takes place, remedial action becomes necessary.
While Chief Minister Rawat has rightly disassociated the party and his government from Bhagat’s misplaced attempt at humour, the matter cannot end here. Cognisance will have to be taken by the BJP High Command, as mistakes like this can prove unexpectedly expensive. The party is in a comfortable position in the state, but this incident will prove an embarrassment not just in Uttarakhand, but nationwide. As it is, the party is projected by the ‘progressives’ as patriarchal, while it, itself, claims to be greatly respectful towards women, in line with ancient Indian traditions. There is no alternative, therefore, for Bhagat but to resign, or be dismissed.
It will be a hard decision to take because Bhagat has been a party stalwart in the Kumaon Division. However, his removal will just as much establish the BJP’s commitment to decency in public life. It will not do, as party spokesperson Munna Singh Chauhan has attempted, to dissimulate in terms of ‘context’ or ‘perception’. He is obviously hesitant to hang his boss out to dry but, the fact, is action needs to be taken swiftly if political ground is to be recovered. It will also set a standard for future political behaviour in ‘Devbhoomi’.