BJP president Rajnath Singh created an unnecessary controversy before leaving for the US where he will address the Indian diaspora. Singh's remark that English has caused a great loss to India by causing a cultural erosion and hampering the growth of Sanskrit in the country. Quite naturally, the comment has irked public leaders and intellectuals.
Rajnath Singh regretted that not many people speak Sanskrit in India now. He said the forces of Anglicisation which has penetrated today's youth is dangerous.
Singh's language has caused much damage to his party's effort towards an image makeover. It is a bit surprising that when a fresh leadership under Narendra Modi is trying to make the party achieve its national aspirations, some of its established leaders are making remarks or committing actions that have huge potential to derail all efforts.
First it was L K Advani who attempted a coup to unsettle Modi as the party's main face for the Lok Sabha elections but failed, followed by Amit Shah who re-ignited the Ayodhya temple issue and now, it is none other than the party chief who made a comment against English and in favour of Sansrit.
The BJP, we all know, is a party which has a orientation towards cultural nationalism but it must understand that Ayodhya and Sanskrit no more serve as limits of its nationalist passions and today's times demand a much broader vision. Singh's reasserting the narrow cultural ethos of his party contradicts his predecessor's efforts to unveil its fresh image and for which he has been reportedly meeting intellectuals.
The BJP just can not afford to spark off controversy by saying English has destroyed Indianness. The concept of India has been woven together by the very 'Englishness' which Singh has condemned. It is the English language which had enabled former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime to achieve remarkable heights in the information technology sector. Why isn't Rajnath Singh speaking on that aspect?
The man is scheduled to speak on India's foreign policy vis-a-vis Afghanistan. One will look forward to hear the BJP's thoughts on this key issue once the Americans pull out of the war-ravaged nation? But will they hear a Sanskrit version of the foreign policy? Narendra Modi himself has a major following on social networking sites where mostly the English-speaking people interact and converse. Why is Singh trying to annoy that section by making remarks which are completely obsolete?
The opponents have been attacking the saffron party over a misinterpreted interview of Modi given to Reuters recently. They have projected 'Hindu nationalism' as said by Modi as a form of divisive stand, which is actually not. Now, they will find yet another reason to sharpen their attack, thanks to Singh's narrow observation. Why hand over a gift to the opponents amid a fierce fight?
The BJP can not afford to bear the brunt for such irresponsible moves by its top leadership. It is a party which is popular among the educated middle-class, the urban elite, doesn't practise minority appeasement as some other 'secular' parties do and also stress on good governance and modernity. It is a party which is known for its tech-savvy and media-friendly leaders. When the entire outfit looks forward, why suddenly its chief makes a backward dart?
A Dalit ideologue has said that he is not surprised by Singh's remarks for according to him, the BJP can not flourish in a caste-neutral society.
A paradox indeed.