‘Scorpion on Shiv Linga’ controversy – BJP leaders misquote Shashi Tharoor

At 1:25 PM on October 28, ANI tweeted a part of Shashi Tharoor’s speech at the Bangalore Literature Festival where the Congress MP quoted an unidentified RSS leader who had metaphorically termed Narendra Modi as a “scorpion on a Shiva Linga” – one that can neither be touched nor be hit with chappals (slippers).

Soon after, Union Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shakar Prasad held a press conference, construing Tharoor as the one making the remark. In a tweet posted that around 6 PM that same day, Prasad asked Congress President Rahul Gandhi to apologise for Tharoor’s comments, which he described as a “horrific denunciation” of Hindu Gods and the faith.

Several other BJP leaders also reacted strongly against Tharoor, with Bihar MP RK Sinha penning an article where he called Tharoor a “habitual abuser”, accusing him of using foul language against Prime Minister Modi by dragging Lord Shiva’s name.

Minister of State for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Giriraj Singh said that Tharoor would have been ‘silenced’ had he made the remark in Pakistan. “He has not only insulted the Prime Minister but crores of Hindus and followers of Lord Shiva in this country,” stated the BJP minister.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra demanded that Congress President Rahul Gandhi expels Tharoor from the party for his remarks.

American-Hindu acharya Dr David Frawley also condemned Tharoor, claiming that he “misleadingly used Lord Shiva to attack Modi”.

What did Tharoor really say?

If one carefully listens to the video where Tharoor is making the statement, it is clear that the remark wasn’t his but the Congress MP was quoting an unidentified RSS leader who gave a bite to The Caravan’s Vinod Jose.

This is what Tharoor said at the Bangalore Literature Festival on October 28: “There is an extraordinarily striking metaphor expressed by an unnamed Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) source to the journalist Vinod Jose of the Caravan, which I quote. In which they expressed their frustration in their inability to curb Modi. Modi is like a scorpion sitting on a Shivling, you cannot remove him with your hand and you cannot hit it with a chappal either.”

In a 2012 report – ‘The Emperor Uncrowned – the rise of Narendra Modi’ – by The Caravan’s Executive Editor Vinod Jose, an RSS leader gave the Modi-scorpion metaphor.

BJP’s Gordhan Zadaphia made a similar reference in 2010

When Jose was asked by a Twitter user to reveal the name of the RSS leader, he declined to say. “How can a journalist betray his source?” he tweeted, adding that the Modi-scorpion metaphor was not only quoted by the RSS leader but also by Gordhan Zadaphia, former Gujarat Home Minister under the chief ministership of Narendra Modi in 2001-02.

Shashi Tharoor tweeted a 50-second clip of Zadaphia quoting the same metaphor.

The original video is six minutes long and was posted by NewsX on September 12, 2010. In the 20th second of the video, the words – ‘Modi a Bichhu’ – are flashed on the screen, subsequent to which Zadaphia says – “If I wanted to say, I can say that a scorpion is sitting on a Shiva Linga. Neither can sangh parivar touch it, nor can they throw anything (at it which) damages (the Linga). The whole parivar is visualising, they are having these feelings but they can’t do anything.”

Shashi Tharoor did not make the Modi-scorpion reference himself but quoted an RSS member, which he clearly stated in his speech, yet BJP leaders attempted to portray it as an anti-Hindu and anti-Modi remark. In fact, Ravi Shankar Prasad went so far as to hold a press conference based on this twisted narrative.

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