The BJP was lauded for acting very quickly against its UP vice-president Dayashankar Singh after he likened BSP leader Mayawati to a prostitute when it came to ticket distribution in the just-concluded elections. But these noble sentiments did not last long for as soon as his wife who was appointed chief of the party’s women’s wing won the elections, Singh was reinstated as though the mere act of the BJP winning the elections neutralised his ugly remarks. The BSP leader, according to Singh, would sell tickets to the highest bidder his exact words being “Mayawatiji now has a character worse than a prostitute.”
This raises the question of whether his expulsion was a political stunt in the first place, a move to placate hurt Dalit sentiment. Had no action been taken against him, it is certain that the BJP may have lost a few seats and the BSP gained a few. But this hasty re-induction suggests that the BJP really does not care about propriety or women’s rights. To refer to a woman leader in such derogatory terms should have occasioned far sterner action than a temporary expulsion and a slap on the wrist. UP where the BJP has notched up a resounding victory has a particularly bad record when it comes to women’s safety and status. This was raised now and again by the BJP as a stick to beat the Akhilesh Yadav government with and justifiably so. But the fact that a man who publicly demeans a senior woman leader finds a place in the party so readily sends out the wrong signal – that the concern for women is nothing more than lip service on the part of the party.
In the past, too politicians from UP have not covered themselves in glory when it comes to references about women. Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav is on record as saying that boys will be boys, his indulgent response to the calls for harsher punishment for rapes. Narendra Modi attacked him for this remark during this campaign but the reinstatement of the offending leader would suggest that this is not a really serious issue for the party. The BJP now holds all the aces in UP, it has the responsibility to send out a strong message that no attack on women, whether physical or verbal, will be tolerated. It is no use lauding the exalted status of women in the Indian tradition, the truth is that they are oppressed and insulted on a daily basis. A rethink on allowing such elements as Singh in the party is required to reinforce the sentiment that bad behaviour will not be rewarded.