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Rape victim at centre of election campaign

A rape victim has become the focus of the campaign for assembly elections sparking off a verbal due between the ruling Congress and opposition BJP.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2003 13:32 IST

A rape victim has become the focus of the campaign for assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, as she figures in a war of words between the ruling Congress party and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

BJP's chief ministerial candidate Uma Bharati presented Jamni Bai, who was raped and paraded naked at her village nine years ago, to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at a women's rally here to highlight the "lack of respect" for women during the Congress party's rule.

Madhya Pradesh, which has been ruled by Congress continuously for the past 10 years, will go to the polls to elect a new assembly December 1.

Chief minister Digvijay Singh, Congress leaders and social organisations have criticised Bharati's unprecedented act, calling it a gimmick and a political stunt.

At the rally, held October 19, Bharati wanted to prove that women were vulnerable in Chief Minister Singh's regime.

She said Jamni Bai and thousands of victims like her would live like queens if the BJP came to power in the state. Jamni sat on the dais throughout the rally, which was addressed by Vajpayee.

Vijaya Pathak, a social worker based in Bhopal, criticised the BJP.

"The woman was raped by millions the moment she came on the dais. She is a rape victim, why parade her before people?" she asked.

In his reaction, the chief minister said BJP should not have raised the issue as a court had already convicted those responsible for raping the woman years ago.

Deputy chief minister Jamuna Devi said BJP was stooping very low for gaining political mileage. She has said the Congress would see that the matter was not made an election issue.

The Congress has taken up the matter with the Election Commission.

Party representatives apprised election commissioners in Bhopal that the BJP had paraded a rape victim at the rally. The Congress has asked the Election Commission to prevent the BJP for doing similar things in future.

Bharati has defended her actions, saying Jamni Bai had asked to accompany her to the rally and she had never intended to "display" her.

Bharati has also said she never used the word "rape" while speaking about Jamni.

The BJP leader has also written an article in some newspapers here, in which she said Jamni Bai was the most glaring example of atrocities against woman in Singh's 10-year rule.

"Hence the Congress is raising hue and cry over Jamni Bai's parade" she wrote.

"She represents women, the poor and the downtrodden. Around 1,80,000 women have been exploited like Jamni Bai in Digvijay Singh's rule.

"Jamni Bai is like my mother and my source of inspiration. BJP will form the next government in the state for women like Jamni Bai," she said in the article.