Hyderabad: Sakshi Maharaj of the ruling BJP has a flip explanation, not regret, for declaring that Hindu women should have at least four children to "protect" their religion. "Raat gayi, baat gayi (that was yesterday, let's move on)," he said, adding that his statement was made at a religious and not political gathering.
"Sakshi Maharaj is for the media," said BJP president Amit Shah in Hyderabad today according to news agency IANS, which also quoted Mr Shah as saying that the BJP does not agree with Sakshi Maharaj's opinion. Mr Shah also reportedly ceded, "When our MLAs or MPs give such statements, it damages the BJP," but stressed that controversies would not divert the government's focus from its agenda of economic reforms and development.
On Tuesday, at a religious congregation in the city of Meerut, Sakshi Maharaj, who is a Lok Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh said, "The time has come when a Hindu woman must produce at least four children in order to protect the Hindu religion."
Political opponents demanded an explanation from the Prime Minister.
"Why has the Prime Minister maintained silence even for 24 hours? Is this the new population policy of India?" asked Abhishek Manu Singhvi of the Congress.
Just a month ago, Sakshi Maharaj stirred controversy by calling Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse a 'patriot'.
The Prime Minister has warned law-makers from his party to avoid speeches or comments to the media that could fuel opposition claims of his government promoting a right-wing Hindu agenda. The last session of parliament was paralyzed by a united opposition demanding the PM's response on the campaign by right-wing groups linked to the BJP of forcing or enticing religious minorities to convert to Hinduism.
The focus on that made it impossible for the government to push through important legislation. Ordinances or special executive orders were then used by the Prime Minister to initiate economic reforms.