NEW DELHI/HUBLI: BJP was on Sunday left red-faced as it inducted Pramod Muthalik, the controversial chief of Sri Rama Sene linked with the attack on women at a pub in Mangalore in 2009, only to dump him within hours after opposition from within and severe flak from other parties.
Muthalik, who is facing some 45 cases including those relating to promoting enmity between two communities, was welcomed into the party fold in the presence of Karnataka party president Prahalad Joshi, former chief minister Jagadish Shettar and former deputy chief minister K S Eshwarappa at a function in Hubli.
But as Congress and other parties latched on the issue to attack BJP and rumblings began within the saffron party, BJP president Rajnath Singh directed Joshi to rescind the move.
Party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said in Delhi the central leadership was not consulted on the decision and has disapproved of it. “It had instructed the state party to reject the membership of Muthalik.”
Soon after the party chief’s call, Joshi said the decision allowing entry of Muthalik has been set aside.
“Due to various reasons, induction of Pramod Muthalik has been set aside under central party direction by the state president Prahlad Joshi,” said a statement issued by the party’s Karnataka unit.
Asked about the confusion, Joshi said the decision to induct Muthalik into the party was taken at the state level.
51-year-old Muthalik had shot into limelight after activists of his right-wing outfit had barged into the pub in Mangalore in 2009 and assaulted youngsters — women and men — after accusing them of behaving in an “obscene manner”.
Muthalik, who was arrested after the incident, had apologized for the violence but claimed that their actions were “aimed at protecting the women”. The then Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa had said Sri Ram Sene had “nothing to do” with BJP or the Sangh parivar.
Congress slammed BJP’s move to induct Muthalik saying that its leaders, including Sushma Swaraj have been talking about women’s empowerment but their party was now “glaringly opposing women’s emancipation” and had been exposed.
Party leader Ambika Soni said people should send a firm message in the coming election that “any party which honours, appeases people who publicly violate the self-respect and dignity of women are not going to be tolerated”.
“You can see this is height of opportunism and I think that women across the country should take a very decisive call on this.”
BJP leader and Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar also asked the party leadership to reconsider the decision to induct Muthalik.
Parrikar, who was in Nagpur to campaign for the BJP, said that he had conveyed his opposition to the BJP’s national leadership.
“I have said he should not be (taken into BJP) and his membership should be quashed,” he said.
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, a known RSS baiter, hit out at the Sangh Parivar and renewed his allegations of its links with terrorism.
“There have been people responsible for all acts of terrorism done by Hindus. All this is now become apparent. People will have to choose whether the country is to remain united or divided.
“BJP is part of this conspiracy, (or else) why would they admit leader of Sri Ram Sene. Why would Suhsma Swaraj and others go and plead to the PM not to put Sadhvi Pragya behind bars,” he said.
CPM leader Brinda Karat lashed out at BJP and described Muthalik as a “criminal who led a mob to attack women”.
“The Modi wave is to get criminal, corrupt people into the party. That is why Jaswant Singh is raising questions. The message being given is that don’t trust BJP as far as women’s rights are concerned,” she said.
Muthalik has had a love-hate relation with BJP, which was evident when the saffron party had accused him of misusing Modi’s name for raising funds. He joined RSS in 1975 and Shiv Sena in 2005, but left the latter in 2006.
This is the first time he is officially being associated with the party.