After discussions on the caste combinations in poll-bound states, the marital status of political leaders suddenly became the centre of political controversy on Wednesday.
The twist came after BJP mouthpiece Kamal Sandesh commented on Rahul Gandhi’s bachelor status, saying he was “sad” as he was unmarried.
The piece, which appeared in the magazine edited by BJP Rajya Sabha MP and Madhya Pradesh state BJP chief Prabhat Jha, led to a political war of words, with the Congress on the offensive and the BJP playing down the reference. The controversy, however, did distract attention from the BJP’s induction of tainted faces that it had attributed to “social engineering”.
The piece did provide some comic relief in the otherwise ‘serious’ press conference by Uma Bharti in Delhi, seen by some as her attempt to show she was not displeased with the induction of Babu Singh Kushwaha.
Bharti faced a volley of questions on the comments made on Gandhi’s marital status. “I am the wrong person to ask the question, as I am myself unmarried,” she said amid laughter. Pat came the next question: was she also “sad”? Bharti replied, “I am unmarried and I am very happy.”
The reactions in the Congress varied from party leader Manish Tewari’s refusal to “dignify” the piece with a comment to minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Shukla’s attacking the BJP. He said, “The BJP stoops to such levels and eventually the public punishes it.” Shukla added that the Congress had never attacked the BJP stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee personally. Significantly, Vajpayee, too, is a bachelor.
BJP leader Vijay Goel sought to play down the controversy,and said such comments should be taken with “sportsmen sprit” and shouldn’t be taken seriously.
Prabhat Jha, however, stuck by his words and told the media that while the Congress was “drowning”, Gandhi was upset because he was unmarried.