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Sabyasachi row: BJP’s Narottam Mishra is back in news for all wrong reasons

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Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra is back in news, for the wrong reasons again.

First, it was Prakash Jha’s web series Ashram-3 and now it is fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s latest mangalsutra ad. Mishra said while speaking to media persons: “Why always target the Hindu religion? If you have the courage, try it out with other religions and their practices.”

Last week, Bajrang Dal members went on a rampage on the sets of web series Ashram-3 in Bhopal, and assaulted its crew including director Prakhash Jha. They also threw ink at Jha and roughed him up while vandalizing vehicles of the crew. Mishra had then asked: “Why name the web series Ashram? I see that Hinduism is becoming a soft target.”

A few days later, fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s controversial advertisement of a mangalsutra ticked off Mishra once again. Speaking at his constituency in Datia on Sunday (October 31), the senior BJP leader warned Sabyasachi to withdraw the advertisement within 24 hours or face legal action. He also mentioned a Dabur ad that showed a lesbian couple celebrating Karwa Chauth. He argued that the mangalsutra is the most important ornament for a woman and to show the whole idea in such a “sleazy manner” is unacceptable.

Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s company withdrew all the ads and also issued a statement apologising for “offending a section of society”. The designer’s brand said: “In the context of making heritage and culture a dynamic conversation, the Mangalsutra campaign aimed to talk about inclusivity and empowerment. The campaign was intended as a celebration and we are deeply saddened that it has instead offended a section of our society. So we at Sabyasachi have decided to withdraw the campaign.”

The Producers Guild of India and Federation of Western India Cine Employees have criticised the attack. Director Abbas Tyrewala wrote on his Facebook page: “…[S]oon, there will be too many rules to keep track of. Too many to remember. Too many to know; hell, you’ll be breaking rules you never knew existed.”

Speaking in the context of the Prakash Jha’s web series, Ashram-3, Mishra said that Madhya Pradesh, which is a popular shooting destination, will frame new norms which make it mandatory for directors to share scripts of their movies/serials with the government before the shooting begins.

Who is Narottam Mishra?

The Home Minister of BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, Narottam Mishra, 61, is the number 2 in Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, which took charge in March 2020 after Jyotiraditya Scindia left Congress with a bunch of MLAs to join the BJP. Mishra is considered the architect of the deal, called ‘Operation Lotus’, which led to the fall of Kamal Nath government, just a few days before the first nationwide lockdown was announced.

Also read: Now Sabyasachi’s mangalsutra ad creates furore on social media

Mishra has won all but one assembly election since 1990. He first became a minister in the Babulal Gaur government in 2005. Since then Mishra has been part of every government, except for a few months in 2008 when he unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha elections against Jyotiraditya Scindia in Guna.

Mishra is not new to controversies. But of late, Mishra is seen emerging as a strong BJP leader on the national stage who is willing to leave the shadow of Shivraj Chouhan and gain a foothold as someone close to Amit Shah. In fact, Mishra was likely to become the CM after the fall of Kamal Nath government, but Chouhan’s stronghold over the state politics won him another chance.

Mishra is also considered the man who designed Madhya Pradesh’s anti-conversion Bill and is a vocal advocate of BJP’s ‘love jihad’ theory.

On his latest tirade against Prakash Jha and Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Mishra said, “I am the Home Minister and it is my duty to maintain law and order in the state. Earlier, I was minister for water resources, health and housing, so I did not comment on such issues.”

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