I and my ilk have often been referred to as ‘presstitutes’ – and continue to be thus labeled -- but nobody from the BJP has condemned Union Minister VK Singh, the author of this expletive. Journalists are fair meat is the assumption one can safely draw.
But today, when BJP’s Uttar Pradesh vice president called former chief minister, Mayawati, a ‘prostitute’ , all hell broke loose. Wait a minute, it wasn’t respect for women that led to apologies from senior leaders. Vice president Daya Shankar Singh, a Thakur leader, probably did not even rinse his mouth after referring to Mayawati as a ‘vaishya’ who sells assembly tickets.
If Singh has been sacked, it is only because of the upcoming polls in UP where the Dalits constitute a considerable vote bank that cannot be angered. There are enough examples of male politicians using derogatory words for their female colleagues and they lie littered across political parties. The problem is they think they can get away with it.
Only recently, another BJP MLA, OP Sharma, referred to Aam Aadmi Party legislator Alka Lamba as someone who roamed around all night. “Raat bhar ghoomne wali,’’ he had said on the floor of the house. The Speaker suspended Sharma from the assembly for two days – even though MLA’s asked for a thirty day suspension – and soon it was back to business.
The problem is it is always back to business and parties across the political divide are guilty of misogyny. JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, while opposing the women’s reservation bill in the Lok Sabha said it would only benefit ‘par kati aurtein’ (well-heeled women). Unhindered, he also talked about “saanvli” (dusky south Indian women while debating the Insurance bill in the Rajya Sabha, saying, “The women of the south are dark but they are as beautiful as their bodies…We don’t see it here. They know dance.”
The Congress party has a woman at its helm but the fact that Sonia Gandhi was the party President did not deter general secretary and three-time chief minister Digvijaya Singh from wagging his tongue. “Our party MP, Meenakshi Natrajan, is a Gandhian, simple and an honest leader. She keeps going from place to place in her constituency. I am a seasoned smith of politics. Meenakshi sau tunch maal hai.” If he had spoken in english, he would have probably referred to her as a ‘’hot chick.” (Sic)
The woman’s body always lies at the heart of the derogatory sexist remarks. The problem is not just that our leaders are being politically incorrect. The malaise is perhaps deeper, for remarks like ‘tunch maal’ or ‘prostitute’ speak of a mindset that seems to grudge women their place in politics. Congress’ Sanjay Nirupam certainly displayed that when he told BJP’s Smriti Irani, “Aap toh TV pe thumke lagati thi, aaj chunavi vishleshak ban gayi.’’ (You use to dance on TV and now you consider yourself to be a political analyst.”
Decency cannot be taught, nor is it to do with class or VK Singh, a former army chief, would not have said ‘presstitute’. It is time political parties drew up a code of conduct for women in politics are definitely here to stay. Indira Gandhi became the prime minister after being called ‘gungi gudiya’ (dumb doll) and Mayawati too has proven her political weight.