Misogyny In Indian Politics

The Inherent Misogyny In Indian Politics

Most political parties have no system in place that will restrain their leaders from using coarse and sexist language to deride female opponents

The ongoing campaign for India’s Lok Sabha polls is plumbing new depths on a daily basis. As electioneering gathers momentum, reports of politicians using coarse and abusive language against their opponents have become a regular occurrence.

Though male politicians, especially high-profile leaders like Congress president Rahul Gandhi, are constantly targeted by rivals, it is the women politicians who are the worst off. Civility in public life is now a rare phenomenon as women politicians are finding out to their own peril, having to continuously contend with the worst possible sexist and misogynistic comments. From being called “prostitutes”, “skirt wali bai”  and “nach gaane wali” to comments on their physical appearance and how they dress, women in politics have to face all this and more.

The offenders come from across the political spectrum and the insulting language used by them has become such a regular feature that both their party bosses and the public at large view it as acceptable behavior, putting it down to election fever. The common excuse proffered for this behavior is that “people sometimes get carried away in the heat of the moment.” If at all there is any outrage and anger, it is confined largely to the social media.

Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan, who is not new to controversies, touched a new low recently while campaigning against Jaya Prada, a former film actor who has been fielded by the Bharatiya Janata Party from the Rampur Lok Sabha constituency. Addressing a public meeting, Khan remarked, “It took you 17 years to understand her true face. But I realised in 17 days… that she wears khaki underwear.”  And, of course, an unrepentant Khan shrugged off these comments, merely saying these were not meant for Jaya Prada. Similarly, another Samajwadi Party leader Firoz Khan had not held back in degrading Jaya Prada. “Rampur ki shaamein rangeen ho jaayengi ab jab chunavi mahual chalega (Rampur’s evenings will turn colourful in this election season),” he had said at an election rally, clearly referring to her former career in films.

While Jaya Prada has always been at the receiving end, primarily because she comes from the world of cinema, other women politicians are not spared either. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the newly-appointed Congress general secretary, is currently the prime target of her political rivals. From comments about her clothes to her looks, nothing is off-limits. 

The gamut of comments ranges from being called a “choclatey face”, “Sarupnakha” (Ravan’s sister) and “Pappu ki Pappi”. BJP’s Bihar minister Vinod Narayan Jha had derisively remarked that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra may be beautiful but has no political achievement to her credit. His party colleague Harish Dwivedi did no better. He chose to comment on Priyanka’s clothes, stating at another election rally that “Priyanka Gandhi wears jeans and top in Delhi but wears a sari and sindoor when she tours rural areas. Senior BJP leader Kailash Vijavargiya went a step further when he remarked that Priyanka’s entry into politics was similar to fielding Kareena Kapoor or Salman Khan in elections. “The Congress does not have strong candidates, so it is bringing in these charming faces,” he sneered.

Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati is another “favorite” with the abusers. As a woman, the BSP chief has many “disadvantages” to her credit: She is heading a party, has been a chief minister, nurses Prime Ministerial ambitions but above all, she is a Dalit. A scheduled caste woman leader, who had the temerity to upset the social status quo, is anathema to male politicians, especially those belonging to the upper castes. As a result, her adversaries consistently demean and disparage her.

When Mayawati recently mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for calling himself a chowkidar while living in royal style,  BJP leader Surendra Singh responded by stating that the BSP chief coloured her hair and gets a  daily facial to “hide her age.” And when the BSP teamed up with the Samajwadi Party, another BJP leader did not blink before calling her a “transgender”. Three years ago, another BJP leader from Uttar Pradesh had accused Mayawati of selling tickets like a “prostitute,” a remark which was defended by his wife Swati Singh.

But BJP leaders are not the only offenders here. Misogyny cuts across political barriers. Sanjay Nirupam, former president of the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee, had, in the course of a television debate, jeered Union Smriti Irani, calling her “thumke lagane wali”.  Congress alliance partner Jaydeep Kawade, fared no better, stating that Irani wears a bindi and “that the size of a woman’s bindi keeps grows as she changes husbands.”

As charges and counter-charges fly thick and fast, it appears that there is going to be no early end to this coarsening debate. It is little wonder that women hesitate to enter politics as political parties have no systems in place to check such behaviour. On the other hand, the conduct of offending politicians is invariably shrugged off without inviting any form of punishment from their party bosses.

This comes at a time when political parties, in an effort to appear more gender-friendly and to get a slice of the women’s vote, have publicly declared that they would give more tickets to women and even implement a quota for women in party structures. However, their commitment can easily be gauged by the fact that the women’s reservation bill, providing quotas for women in Parliament and state assemblies, has been pending for nearly two decades while the pledge to give more representation in the party organisation and the selection of candidates invariably remains unfulfilled.


Chidambaram sparks storm on Kashmir

Reprehensible attempt by Congress to support those calling for Azadi in Kashmir. This is nothing but an insult to our soldiers. pic.twitter.com/kUWG1M1ObI

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 29, 2017 “Thousands of soldiers have sacrificed their lives for Kashmir. They have been making sacrifices for protecting the motherland, to protect the innocent residents of Kashmir. There would not be a state in the country from where brave soldiers have not laid down their lives for Kashmir. And suddenly, those who were in power till yesterday are taking a U-turn today,” Modi said. “They are lending their voice to those demanding `azadi’. I want to ask the residents of Bengaluru, can such people, who play politics on the sacrifices of the brave soldiers, do good for the country… And they are not feeling ashamed in saying this. Congress party will have to give an answer for this remark,” Modi said. “It seemed that after repeated defeats some intellectual people in the party would put the Congress back on the right path. But now it looks like the Congress does not want to learn from its mistakes. People usually learn from their mistakes,” Modi said at the BJP rally outside the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Airport in the city. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also hit out at Chidambaram and sought a clarification from Congress. “It’s a serious issue whether statement that has come from a prominent Congress leader is Congress’ official stand or not? Congress should clarify immediately. “The position Congress has taken with regard to ‘Azadi’ or autonomy to be given to Jammu and Kashmir, goes directly contrary to India’s national interest,” said Jaitley.     Chidambaram replied to the criticism on Twitter. “My answer to question on J&K reported today… The BJP should read before criticizing,” Chidambaram tweeted, posting a link to a news report about his remarks on Saturday at an event in Rajkote. “The demand in the Kashmir Valley is to respect in letter and spirit Article 370. And that means that they want greater autonomy. My interactions in Jammu and Kashmir led me to the conclusion that when they ask for azadi (independence), most people – I am not saying all – (an) overwhelming majority want autonomy. Therefore, I think we should seriously examine that question and consider on what areas we can give autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir,” Chidambaram said.

Congress stays out of range

The Congress party played safe, distancing itelf from Chidamabaram’s remarks. The state is an integral part of India and will always remain so, the party said on Sunday. “While individuals may have different personal opinions, Congress believes that the solution for lasting peace and prosperity in Jammu and Kashmir lies solely within the framework of Constitution,” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala in a statement. “Opinion of an individual is not necessarily the opinion of the Congress party. In our democracy, individuals are entitled to opinions,” he added. Taking a dig at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for its policy on Jammu and Kashmir, Surjewala said: “Forty-one months of NDA-BJP regime has seen the situation deteriorate rapidly with terrorism on the rise, border ceasefire violations at an all-time high and our security forces valiantly fighting the onslaught of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism on a daily basis.” “A power hungry coalition of PDP-BJP in Jammu and Kashmir has utterly failed to restore normalcy in the state with BJP government at the Centre having no clear-cut policy either on tackling terrorism or on restoration of normalcy in the state,” he said.
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Rahul, Smriti spar over Jay Shah on Twitter

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Friday mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his “silence” on the alleged spike in the turnover of a company owned by BJP chief Amit Shah’s son Jay, which was countered by party leader Smriti Irani who accused him of insulting the court.

A tweet from an account run by Rahul Gandhi’s office, without naming Prime Minister Modi, accused him of silencing critics on the Jay Shah issue. “Mitron, Shah-Zade ke bare mein na bolunga, na bolne dunga (Friends, I will neither speak about Shah’s son nor allow others to speak),” Gandhi tweeted. Gandhi apparently punned on Modi’s famous line “Na khaoonga, na khane doonga (Will not indulge in corruption nor allow others to indulge in it)”. The Congress leader attached a news report about “The Wire” being barred from writing on Jay Shah to protect his “right to live with dignity” along with his tweet. In response, Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani accused the Congress leader of being out on bail and insulting the court. She also said the Congress was set to lose the Gujarat assembly polls, scheduled for later this year. “A person out on bail mocks the courts…” Irani tweeted. “Lage raho Bhai Gujarat phir bhi haroge. Saal Mubarak (Keep it on brother, you will still lose Gujarat. Happy New Year),” she said. Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi were given bail in December 2015 in the National Herald case of cheating and misappropriation. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders often describe Gandhi as “yuvraj” for his belonging to the first family of the Congress and being considered heir apparent to the post of party chief. Gandhi has been hitting back since the controversy erupted over Jay Shah’s business, referring to him as “Shah-Zada.” He had last week also alleged “state legal help” in Jay Shah’s legal battle with the news portal that published the story. The Congress leader has been relentlessly attacking the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah over the report that alleged Jay Shah’s company’s turnover increased 16,000 times in a year after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister in 2014. The Congress has sought an inquiry into the issue by sitting Supreme Court judges. The BJP has rubbished the allegation, saying Jay Shah’s business was perfectly legitimate and legal. The party has also rejected Congress allegations of crony capitalism. (IANS) // ]]>

Shah-Rahul spat smells like an election

RAHUL GANDHI “Prime Minister Narendra Modi came up with a slogan of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (save girl child, educate her)’. But here, what is happening is save the son of Amit Shah.”

On a report about the 16,000-fold increase in the turnover of the company owned by Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah before the firm was shut ahead of the November 8 demonetisation last year.

“You hit the farmers of Gujarat, you hit small traders, medium businessmen, and from this fire one company rises and that company is of Amit Shah’s son. This is a sign of Modiji’s Startup India.”

On demonetisation and GST

“If our government comes to power, we will do this (single-minded focus on job creation).”

On employment generation by the Modi government

“We will bring policies after understanding your needs. We will listen to you and not impose our ‘mann ki baat’.”

On Modi’s Mann ki Baat and outreach to the public

“I do not believe in suppressing anyone.”

On freedom of expression

  AMIT SHAH “You have trusted the Gandhi-Nehru family for 60 years. You put your trust for once in the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, you will not regret it.”

On the Gandhis  versus the BJP

“He is seeking answers from the Modi government for its performance of last three years but the people of Amethi are seeking answers from the three generations of Gandhi family which has ruled from panchayat to Parliament in the last 70 years.”

On Rahul Gandhi’s criticism of the Modi government

“There are two development models in the country. One is Gandhi-Nehru model while another is Modi model. In Gujarat there is 24-hour power supply, drinking water in every house, a good public health centre in every tehsil.”

On economic policy and Rahul Gandhi’s presence in Gujarat

“There are 106 schemes initiated by this government. Rahul Gandhi will not be able to even count them.”

On the NDA government’s schemes for the poor, Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Caste, youth and farmers

“You (Rahul Gandhi) cannot even see it because you wear Italian glasses. Changes are taking place in the country. There will be change in Amethi too in 2019.”

On the surgical strike on terrorist hubs in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir last year


 Attacking the Sangh parivar over the issue of women empowerment Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday sparked off a row with his remarks that were no “women in shorts in RSS shakhas”. Gandhi, who talked to youth in Vadodara, accused the Sangh Parivar of “not being interested in giving rights to women” and said women were present at all levels in the Congress. He also said Gujarat did not figure among the top 10 states in female literacy. “It is fine with them if a woman is quiet. But if she speaks, the tendency is to make her quiet,” he alleged. Referring to BJP and RSS, Gandhi said “women empowerment was never their priority.” “They are not interested in rights of women. I ask you a simple question. Their main organisation is RSS. How many women are there. Have you seen women in shorts in shakhas? Have you seen. I have not seen. You get to know about an organisation from its structure,” Gandhi said. “There are women in Congress at every level. In RSS, you will not find a single woman. What mistake have they made that they cannot enter the RSS,” he added. Shorts were worn by RSS volunteers while they attended shakhas (daily gathering) earlier but the dress has now changed to trousers. Information and Broadcasting Minister Irani, who was at Amethi, the constituency of Gandhi, hit back.  “The remarks that Rahul Gandhi made about our sisters in Rashtriya Sevika Sangh or who have joined the Sangh in some capacity or are sisters, daughters, wives and relatives of Swayamsevaks… the indecent remark that he has made about women. If Rahulji believes that wearing shorts is a sign of empowerment in India then as a woman, I condemn it,” she said. Human Resource Development Minister Javadekar said: “He (Gandhi) has never seen the shakhas. In (RSS’ woman wing) Rashtriya Sevika Samiti, women hold separate shakhas. But Rahul Gandhi never tried to know about it. He only tweets and that too dictated content.” (IANS)
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