Close to three years have not sufficed to enlighten the Modi-Shah edition of the NDA government that holding high office requires rising above petty politicking, electoral manipulation, seeking confrontation at every possible opportunity and convincing the people at large that truly national interests (not a narrow interpretation of what is perceived as patriotism) are at the top of the agenda. The NDA leadership’s boycotting of a function to mark the centenary of Gandhiji’s Champaran satyagraha suggests that it retains the smallminded approach of an entity still unsure of its own credentials. The “explanation” offered by the BJP’s former deputy chief minister of Bihar only confirms that the “largeness” expected of a ruling party at the Centre eludes its leadership. It was a state government-organised event, so no requirement for the BJP president to be invited. Objections to invitations to political parties opposed to the BJP were downright childish. And utterly ridiculous was the argument that home minister Rajnath Singh should not share a platform with persons as allegedly tainted as Lalu Prasad and Rahul Gandhi: will the Congress’ vice-president be denied entry to an all-party meet, or to a parliamentary leaders’ conference that the government may call in future? If the (National Herald) case against Rahul serves as a disqualification, what about the several cases (on some vicious charges) against the new nawab of Lucknow and some NDA ministers at the Centre? None of the persons who reportedly triggered the boycott would be impacted by the NDA staying away, not even chief minister Nitish Kumar who hosted the event. The “visible” casualty was the honour and memory of the Father of the Nation and those who had participated in the freedom struggle. Are they and the Mahatma now being appended to the BJP’s black list that includes Nehru, Indira and others?

Mr Pranab Mukherjee is not prone to letting himself be insulted, but there is reason to suspect that the BJP deliberately stayed away to “protect” its ears from having to hear yet another Presidential plea for plurality, inclusiveness, tolerance and all the rest that should elevate sabka saath sabka vikas above ritual rhetoric. Mr Mukherjee has displayed the gumption to make everyone aware of his disgust with the divisive politics so favoured by the present leadership of the BJP and its government. Some of his speeches have been hard-hitting, particularly when flaying the cancerous culture of violence now spreading across university campuses all over the country. The BJP leadership initially made a few noises appreciating Mr Mukherjee’s line of thinking, then it switched tactics to extending the “silent treatment” to him. And now it would appear that a boycott is its latest weapon. It is with ominous apprehension that the nation looks towards the curtain dropping on Pranabda’s days in Rashtrapati Bhawan.