In BJP's 1st List, A Message Against MPs Who Made Hate Speech Headlines

Pragya Thakur, Ramesh Bidhuri and Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma have been replaced in the BJP list

New Delhi:

As the BJP released its first list of 195 candidates for Lok Sabha polls, some omissions stood out more than the names that made it to the list. These include firebrand leader Pragya Thakur and sitting MPs from Delhi, Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma and Ramesh Bidhuri.

The three leaders have made headlines for their controversial remarks inside and outside Parliament, and the BJP’s move to drop them sends a message that the party is taking no chances ahead of an election in which it faces a joint Opposition.

In Bhopal, the BJP has replaced Pragya Thakur with Alok Sharma. An accused in the 2008 Malegaon bombings case, the firebrand leader’s nomination last time had sparked a huge row. The five years since then have seen her getting caught in several controversies. Out on bail on health grounds, Ms Thakur has been seen playing kabaddi and attending garba nights. But the controversy that may have harmed her the most is a statement in which she called Nathuram Godse, the man who shot Mahatma Gandhi dead, a “patriot”.

The remark drew a stern response from none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The remarks made about Gandhiji or Nathuram Godse are very bad and very wrong for society. She has sought an apology, but I would never be able to forgive her fully,” he said. Five years on, Ms Thakur has lost her seat.

Ms Thakur was at the centre of another row for her remarks on former Mumbai ATS chief Hemant Karkare, who died during the 2008 terror attacks. She had said he was killed because of her “curse”. Party sources said the firebrand leader was not active in her constituency, and that played a key role in her being dropped.   

A key omission in the BJP list that surprised many was West Delhi MP Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma. A two-time MP and son of former Chief Minister, late Sahib Singh Verma, he is known to have a strong support base. But the 46-year-old leader has been in the news for his inciting remarks.

Ahead of the 2020 Delhi elections, Mr Verma had made controversial remarks during the Shaheen Bagh protest and said the demonstrators would be cleared in an hour if the BJP came to power in the national capital. 

In 2022, Mr Verma hit headlines again, this time for a public boycott call seemingly aimed at Muslims. “Wherever you see them, if you want to fix their head, if you want to set them straight, then the only cure is total boycott. Raise your hand if you agree,” the BJP MP had said.

Going into the 2024 polls, the BJP has its goals clear. It wants to keep the focus on Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Viksit Bharat @2047’ call and does not want its leaders to make statements that serve as fodder for the Opposition and embarrass the ruling party.

Another MP who may have been axed for his remarks is South Delhi MP Ramesh Bidhuri. During a discussion in Lok Sabha in September last year, Mr Bidhuri used Islamophobic slurs for Amroha MP Danish Ali. The derogatory remarks were caught on camera and sparked a huge row. While the South Delhi MP later apologised, the BJP’s first list shows it was not enough.

The other prominent Delhi MPs who have been dropped include Meenakshi Lekhi and Harsh Vardhan. The BJP, which had won every seat in the national capital in the 2019 polls, faces a joint Opposition this time. While the AAP is contesting four seats, the Congress is fighting three. BJP stalwart late Sushma Swaraj’s daughter and lawyer Bansuri has been fielded from New Delhi.

Sources in the BJP said various factors are considered during selection of candidates. “Winnability is very important. Many MPs, it was found, were unpopular in their constituencies,” a party leader said.

“But there is no doubt that leaders such as Pragya Thakur, Ramesh Bidhuri and Parvesh Verma embarrassed the party with their provocative statements. Denial of tickets to them also sends a message that in public life, decorum has to be maintained. In the past, the Prime Minister had warned the party leaders on several occasions that they should not make controversial statements,” the BJP leader added.

A total of 33 sitting MPs have not made it to the BJP’s first list of 195 candidates. Among the big names that have made it to the poll arena are former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Civil Aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia.


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