The politics to woo female grassroots representatives for the legislative council polls in Kashmir reached crescendo with chief minister Omar Abdullah accused the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), of luring them with make-up kits. The PDP on Friday described it "sexist and denigrating" remark.
Constituting 33% of the total electorate, female panches and sarpanches of Kashmir are emerging as a decisive force for closely contested polls for four state legislative council seats to be held on December 3.
The chief minister is accusing the PDP of "employing tactics and money power" to lure female voters.
"Women panchayat members are reportedly being presented with make-up kits by the PDP to tempt them to vote for the PDP candidates," said Omar during his speech in his traditional bastion Ganderbal on Thursday.
Accusing the PDP using enticing devises like make-up kits, Omar said, "The PDP should understand that the Panchayat members are reputed social activists of high stature. They would teach them a befitting lesson for considering them sellable."
The PDP on Friday took umbrage to Omar's 'make-up kit' remark. "It's denigrating to the womenfolk. Such demeaning remarks against the mothers and sisters were completely unacceptable," said PDP spokesman Naeem Akhtar.
The spokesman said Omar's statement does not go well with his claim to have a degree from abroad or having any modern day schooling. "Omar talking of make-up kits and lipstick is displaying an eighteenth century feudal mindset in which the rulers would advise people to eat cakes during famine. It is absurd to talk of cosmetics in our rural settings where the inefficiency and corruption by the Omar government has thrown womenfolk back into the Middle Ages," alleged Akhtar. The chief minister's remark at its meanest level is not only sexist but also gravely anti-woman, he said.
At least 33,540 sarpanches and panches will vote for the four seats. While 15,628 sarpanches and panches would vote for two seats in Jammu division, 17,912 will vote from Kashmir valley. Forty-four candidates have filed nominations.
The bickering between the NC and the PDP, however, has brought the polls to centre-stage in a state where, otherwise, debate before polls would revolve around statements made by militant groups and separatist leaders.
The polls are emerging as the most fairly contested, widely and freely debated polls by mainstream parties since 1990, when militant insurrection took place in the state.
Except for hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani asking voters to boycott the polls, no militant outfit or separatist groups has issued any boycott call this time.