She is the latest sadhvi on the block and she has conformed to the mould of what is fondly termed by the faithful as spewing fiery rhetoric.
But what I found more objectionable than her rave about illegitimate sons and sons of Ram was the explanation from parliamentary affairs and urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu that she said those ugly words because she, Niranjan Jyoti, being a ‘village woman’, did not know any better.
The PM echoed this sentiment by asking people to at least consider her humble background before demanding her resignation as minister of state for food processing.
I don’t blame the sadhvi entirely. She has been wheeled out by opportunistic politicians during elections to utter precisely these sorts of unacceptable words. She has been used to rouse the rabble so that, filled with religious fervour, they would vote for the party she represents. The ‘village woman’ perhaps does not realise that tub-thumping speeches which galvanise the masses during elections cannot be made once in public office. And for this, I blame her party.
If it was so keen on making her a minister, it should have taken the trouble to tutor her in the niceties and decorum of democratic discourse.
I remember another sanyasin whose eloquence and knowledge of the scriptures were exploited fully by the ruling party in her day. That is Uma Bharti, now minister for water resources. She is reported to have uttered those fateful words ‘ek dhakka aur do, Babri masjid tod doh’ as crazed kar sewaks brought down the historical monument in Ayodhya in 1992.
I presume she did not know the power those words would have in that catastrophic incident, which would forever change public discourse and even cast doubt on our notions of secularism. She denied that she said it and some believe those words were uttered by, yes, yet another sadhvi, Rithambara, who was once a crowd puller for the Hindutva forces. Her uncouth references to anatomical parts of Muslims which should be attacked were a new low at that time.
And it is not the BJP which alone does this. The Samajwadi Party unleashes the garrulous Azam Khan whenever it wants to raise the temperature a notch or two. And he never disappoints. His latest salvos have been on the Taj Mahal, which he claims should be handed over to the Wakf Board and that prayers within the historical monument should be facilitated. Well, if that happens, we can kiss Tagore’s ‘teardrop on the cheek of time’ goodbye.
Of course in the case of Mamata Banerjee, she does not need the help of props like sadhvis to get her point across. She is a one-man compilation of insults and barbs, the cruder the better. Her latest which I am sure you have read about is to tell her opponents that they may find a bamboo where it hurts most if they carry on like this. She also rambled about bamboo forests turning on people. Let’s see if you can make some sense of that. In fact, the sadhvis’ rhetoric would pale in comparison to the colourful language that Didi employs and which is lapped up by the adoring TMC followers.
Now Didi may be a bit of a loose cannon. But the expectations of a minister in a government committed to good governance are a different thing altogether. Uma Bharti seems to have understood this with her years as an administrator as CM in Madhya Pradesh and a minister in the Vajpayee government. This explains why she has become more circumspect and restrained.
Political parties, especially those in power, should educate their ministers, legislators and workers on decency and decorum in public life. In other democracies, elected representatives have lost their jobs for much smaller linguistic misdemeanours. The language of the street corner should not be elevated to high office, in fact it should not be used at all.
But then that would be too much to ask for, wouldn’t it?
Many of our politicians were and are known for their brilliant oratory. Nehru, of course, stands out. Vajpayee is another speaker extraordinaire. I can think of Piloo Mody, Indrajit Gupta, Shashi Tharoor, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and the PM. These are people who are mesmerising when they speak. They have substance and language to back them up. And I am mentioning just a select few. None of them have ever found the need to cater to the lowest common denominator to get their point across.
I really would like to see a situation in which political rhetoric can be stirring but not offensive. And political parties should not take the easy way out by unleashing untutored sadhvis on the public and then adding insult to injury by saying, as in the case of Niranjan Jyoti, that she uttered those words because she is a village woman. I have yet to come across a village woman who would use such foul language in public. The reference is an insult to village women.
I really wish the feminists, always quick to take offence at any patriarchal act, would take on the political parties which use such women to further their cause. And then make insulting remarks about their backgrounds. Uma Bharti was similarly touted as a simple woman long ago and far away. Being simple does not mean being foul-mouthed. And the sooner someone dins this into the heads of the powers that be, the better. But, I am not holding my breath. For even as we speak, Niranjan Jyoti is being unleashed by the party to address people all over Delhi as the BJP begins its bid to capture the capital city in the coming polls.