But for his candour, the country would have continued to suffer from the delusion that the BJP’s focus was only on development for all – sabka saath, sabka vikas. The gau rakshaks, too, would have been disheartened about the party’s apparent reluctance to stand by them, especially after the Supreme Court’s directives about bringing them to book.

Now, they are likely to feel emboldened as they did when a sadhvi in Rajasthan equated them with Bhagat Singh after the killing of a Muslim meat trader.

What gestures such as these indicate is the BJP’s commitment to a Hindu rashtra where the second-class status of the minorities will ensure that their tormentors will be honoured instead of being put behind bars.

The consideration which Jayant Sinha and the sadhvi have shown to the gau rakshaks is a sign of the reliance which the BJP, and its mentor, the RSS, place on the Hindu militants, who include the venomous trolls, to help the party to cross the Rubicon of the forthcoming state assembly elections this winter and the general election next year.

The maverick, Subramanian Swamy, has let the cat out of the bag in this regard by admitting that only Hindutva can bring electoral success to the BJP in the absence of economic growth.

Jayant Sinha’s praise for the cow vigilantes has been followed by a visit to a jail by another Union minister, Giriraj Singh, to express solidarity with the plight of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal activists who have been accused of participating in riots during the Navaratri festival last year in Bihar.

These previously joyful celebrations have now been turned into occasions of fear and violence as the saffron storm-troopers parade the streets with swords and other arms to cow down the minorities and also the BJP’s political opponents as in West Bengal.

In the past, communal riots were a surefire way of the saffron brotherhood to mobilize the Hindu voters. Their involvement in such outbreaks have been noted by several judicial commissions of inquiry. After the Gujarat riots of 2002, the BJP has generally refrained from provoking large-scale riots apparently because of the worldwide bad name which they bring to the party.

Instead, there are now instances of interfaith clashes on a smaller scale, as in Muzaffarnagar in 2013 along with sporadic intimidatory tactics as during the Navaratri period. In addition, the saffron lobby unleashes the gau rakshaks on hapless Muslims or targets them on the charges of carrying out what has been called love jehad by courting or marrying Hindu women.

It is possible that as the elections draw near and there is increasing fear in the Hindutva camp about the BJP’s uncertain prospects, there will be more incidents of Muslims being targeted online by the party’s uneducated and uncultured trolls and in real life by the goons.

The reason for a rising tempo of such verbal and actual violence is that the BJP dreads the possibility of failing to secure a majority in parliament under Narendra Modi’s leadership. The latter’s appearance on the scene was a godsend at a time when the BJP was called a “kati patang” (floating kite) by one of the party’s former admirers, Arun Shourie. It can be said that Modi revived the party in the post-Atal Behari Vajpayee period when it did not have a major leader.

The apprehension in the Modi camp is that if the BJP fails to repeat its performance of 2014 next year, the party may well become a “kati patang” again for two reasons. One is that Modi’s temperament of being a loner will rule out the chances of him running a coalition. The other is that there is no one else in the party who can match his popularity even though it is dwindling at the moment.

However, because of the possibility of a vacuum at the top, the grapevine is abuzz with rumours about Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj playing a role in the leadership stakes as they are considered to be better suited to hold a multi-party alliance together.

In fact, the promptness with which the Union home minister ensured that the person who had threatened to rape a Congress spokesperson’s daughter would be arrested by the Mumbai police has been seen as an attempt to burnish his administrative credentials. A similar interpretation has marked Sushma Swaraj’s intervention in a case where a love jehad couple had faced harassment in a passport office.

The argument is that by their non-partisan acts, the two ministers have thrown their hats into the ring as persons who will be more acceptable than Modi in case the BJP needs coalition partners after the 2019 elections. Modi, incidentally, has maintained his celebrated strategic silence on the two incidents, notwithstanding the abuses which were heaped on “Begum” Sushma Swaraj by the vicious saffron trolls. (IPA Service)