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Sandeep Sahu

That the holy cow is central to the BJP’s brand of politics is public knowledge. Everyone also knows that BJP backed think tanks have discovered many hitherto unknown virtues of cow dung and cow urine. But one never knew that among the myriad virtues of cow dung is its usefulness as a political weapon. Until Saturday morning, that is.

No matter which way one looks at it, the attack on the residence of Mr. V. Karthikeyan Pandian, private secretary to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, with cow dung, among other things, by BJP youth activists is a reprehensible act. It marks a new low in Odisha politics, already grappling to come to terms with the politics of egg attack initiated by the late Congress leader Lalatendu (Lulu) Mohapatra. Somebody as erudite as Jayram Ramesh had justified egg attack as a legitimate way of registering political protest. But I doubt if even he can rationalize what happened on Saturday morning.

The act was condemnable on at least three counts. First, barging into someone’s house, breaking flower pots, smashing windows and smearing the gate and walls with cow dung is not, by any reckoning, a legitimate way of showing political protest no matter what the BJP says to justify it. Neither is egg attack - a weapon the saffron party appears to have inherited along with its inventor’s family – resorted to by its cadres is an acceptable tool of democratic protest. At this rate, what would be the next preferred ‘weapon’ of protest? Human shit?

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Second, the BJP Yuva Morcha activists chose the wrong person to attack. Even assuming that the charges they have leveled against Mr. Pandian are correct, the object of their ire should have been the man who vested him with the kind of clout he is accused of wielding. After all, Mr. Pandian could not have enjoyed that kind of power without the express sanction of his boss, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Mr. Pandian is what he is because his boss wants him to be that way. The Chief Minister, who in the past has banished people from positions of power at the slightest hint of acting beyond brief, could not possibly have been so innocent as not to know that someone is wielding that kind of power on his behalf. In venting out its anger against Mr. Pandian, therefore, the BJP was possibly acting out of frustration at its inability to reach the precincts of the fortress, otherwise known as Naveen Nivas, due to the heavy police bandobast despite repeated attempts.

Third, the BJP – or anyone else, for that matter – has no business raking up the ‘non-Odia’ origin of Mr. Pandian. As the party that rules the Centre, it should know that he belongs to the all-India services, which have always been a mix of officers from the state and outside. Mr. Pandian, who is married to an Odia woman, is doing what he is doing because he is trusted by the Chief Minister, not because he is a Tamilian. In my experience of watching the bureaucracy over the last three decades, I have seen quite a few Odia IAS and IPS officers who haven’t exactly covered themselves with glory, even in matters involving the vital interests of the state. The BJP must think about the consequences of such an approach and spare a thought for Odia officers of all India services, including the IAS, if it is extended to the rest of the country. It’s a shameful attempt to stoke the fires of parochial regional and linguistic chauvinism that could have dangerous ramifications for the country as a whole.

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Questions of propriety apart, the cow dung attack on Mr. Pandian’s house doesn’t even qualify as sound political strategy. How does the BJP think it will help its cause – whether in the short term in the Bijepur by-election or in the long term during the next general elections? If it hopes that the votes will pour in after this act, one can only pity its political judgment. If anything, it runs the risk of losing the support of some people sympathetic to it because it reflects what can only be called the politics of the gutter.



(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV's charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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