The continuing outrageous comments from netas perceived as hard-core backers of the Prime Minister have triggered some mix-up of popular maxims. If “a man is known by the company he keeps” applies negatively to the issue in focus, far from positive would be recalling another, “that with friends like these who needs enemies”. For there can be no denying – despite what BJP spin-doctors may regurgitate – that ever since Mr Narendra Modi&’s spectacular electoral showing a torrent of highly disturbing statements/reactions have begun to fray the once much-vaunted secular fabric of India.

It would be convenient to slam this as “saffronisation” and proceed to contend that a Nagpur-Jhandewalan script is being played out. It is more than a manifestation of the ugly image that ‘Hindutva’ tends to conjure up, rather an indication of how bigoted, narrow-minded and regressive thinking (add as many synonyms as you like) has come to the fore. Was this the sentiment powering the Modi wave? Was all the supposed emphasis on development during the election campaign of 2014 and the noble blueprint the Prime Minister rolled out in the course of his maiden Independence Day message a misleading veneer? There is now need for Incredible India to introspect on the credibility of the claim to be a modern nation, a credibility that will not be established by comparison with what obtains in the neighbourhood.

An unhealthy competition has now broken out to catch the eye of the alleged “remote-controller”, and the current front-runner is Mahesh Sharma who seems to be keen on a cultural revolution in reverse. His “despite being a Muslim” assessment of APJ Abdul Kalam&’s accomplishments has been followed up by the declaration that Indian girls do not need a “night out” (has he taken Sex and the City literally). This is hardly different from what provoked that pink chaddi protest against a saffron-neta in southern India not so long ago.

Indian women at large have been humiliated, those in the BJP ranks seem to have swallowed the insult. The minister has now added his name to a list that includes Yogi Adityanth, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and Giriraj Singh… And that raises the query if the Prime Minister and top BJP leaders endorse such comment. While it is true that Mr Modi cannot keep all tongues in check what prevents him from publicly slamming these obscurantist, archaic, regressive utterances? Occasionally are hints dropped of prime ministerial displeasure: that has had neither deterrent nor preventive effect. Hence a cynical conclusion could be that an engineered strategy is at play: one person spews poison today, keeps relatively quiet; someone else takes over. It might be advisable to refer a third maxim to Mr Modi – “silence is consent”.