While political parties have thus far stayed away from television discussions on certain issues or boycotted news anchors who they deemed to be disrespectful to their spokespersons, perhaps for the first time in Indian political history a leading national party, the BJP has decided to not participate in any debate featuring Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP.
The issue came to light on Wednesday when India Today’s Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted that the BJP has decided not to have its spokesperson on a programme in which an AAP representative was also present. AAP retweeted Sardesai’s tweet on the issue
— Prerna Bakshi (@bprerna) December 21, 2016
AAP also retweeted a message by Samir Abbas of E-TV in which the news anchor had spoken about how the BJP spokesperson stayed away from his programme only because an AAP spokesperson was participating in it.
— Samir Abbas (@TheSamirAbbas) December 21, 2016
AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha even wondered aloud if the BJP would not contest any election that the AAP participated in.
What next? BJP not to contest elections in which AAP participates? Is this the symptom of much deeper trouble within BJP? https://t.co/8pWo8GT8LW
— Raghav Chadha (@raghav_chadha) December 21, 2016
Meanwhile, BJP national secretary and media convener Shrikant Sharma sought to bring some clarity to the issue. “There are no specific instructions to the effect. It is for a media house to invite anyone. But AAP is a political party which levels baseless allegations and resorts to petty politics. Moreover, till now all the allegations they have levelled have been baseless and when you pose a counter-question, they do not reply to it. So their’s is politics of leveling new allegations everyday and not making logical arguments. So, we have said that channels can invite whoever they want, but it would be our jurisdiction to decide in which debate we would like to participate or not,” he said.
Asked why the BJP never had the same approach towards the Congress, Sharma repeated that it is within the party’s right to decide where they will go or not. He said when local issues are discussed, the BJP sends its regional spokespersons and likewise for national issues it sends its national spokespersons.
A senior Congress spokesperson charged that the BJP’s stand on the issue shows its radical bent of mind. “I do not recall any instance where we had boycotted debates only because a particular party was represented on them. Politics is all about listening to every kind of voice and opinion. Yes, but there have been occasions when the party has not spoken on certain issues.”
Similarly, he said, in the past, the BJP had also not participated in debates where the Snoopgate scandal was discussed. “Also, we have often stayed away from the programmes of certain channels or primarily anchors because we found them to be disrespectful towards our anchors and a case in point was a leading English channel, whose prime anchor moved out recently. But this is obviously a first-of-its-kind event where one party is boycotting another.”
The Congress spokesperson said such a move makes no sense as it only deprives a party from presenting its own point of view on a subject.