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Lok Sabha Elections 2019: As poll pitch rises, political discourse takes a dip

New lows: Controversial remarks by leaders cutting across party lines have become common and the jibes follow a predictable pattern too

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 16, 2019 13:05 IST
Manish Chandra Pandey
Manish Chandra Pandey
Hindustan Times, Luknow
PM Narendra Modi,Mayawati,Samajwadi Party
Azam Khan’s controversial comments against actor-turned-politician Jaya Prada has triggered a political storm.(PTI)

The sexist jibe used by senior Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Azam Khan against actor-turned-politician Jaya Prada -- the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from Rampur -- has triggered a political uproar as woman politicians have joined hands to demand action against the controversial leader.

The controversial remarks signalled a new low in the political discourse in Uttar Pradesh where comments like ‘skirt wali bai’ (the maid who wears skirts) and ‘Pappu ki pappi’ (against Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi) and ‘daily facial’ comments (against BSP president Mayawati) have already shocked many.

“It’s so shocking that one can’t even repeat it,” said Jaya Prada lamenting the crassness of the discourse to which women politicians have been subjected to.

In an oblique reference to Jaya Prada, while addressing a rally in the presence of SP president Akhilesh Yadav, Khan had said: “You (the people of Rampur) got represented (by her) for 10 years. People of Rampur, people of Uttar Pradesh and people of India, it took you 17 years to understand her reality. But, I could recognize it in 17 days that she wears a khaki underwear.”

Each such jibe follows a predictable pattern.

For instance, BJP leaders, including its women politicians, were at the forefront on Monday demanding action against Khan.

But in March, the party was silent when a BJP lawmaker from Ballia, Surendra Narayan Singh, had invited widespread condemnation for suggesting that Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati gets facial daily to look young.

The BJP lawmaker had targeted Mayawati for calling PM Narendra Modi ‘shaukeen’ for his perceived fondness for expensive clothes.

The same BJP lawmaker had subsequently targeted Congress general secretary (UP east) Priyanka Gandhi Vadra by comparing her to demon king Ravana’s sister Surpanakha.

Yet another BJP leader had referred to Priyanka as ‘skirt wali bai’ (maid who wears skirts). At that time, the Congress as well as the BSP had asked the BJP lawmakers to refrain from using foul language.

But now is the time for BJP to questioned the two on their silence over Khan’s remarks against Jaya Prada.

An unrepentant Khan, however, sought to take refuge behind the statement that he didn’t name anyone. He followed it up by targeting the district magistrate of Rampur saying, “God willing, I will make these officials clean Mayawati ji’s footwear!”

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who is particular about the use of words in public domain, also tweeted on the controversy, tagging the tweet to the women MPs of the Samajwadi Party – Dimple Yadav and Jaya Bachchan.

“Mulayam bhai, why are you silent? In your presence, the ‘cheerharan’ of Draupadi (disrobing of Draupadi) has taken place in Rampur. Don’t make the mistake of remaining silent like Bhishm Pitamah,” Swaraj said, using the Mahabharat example of Kauravas disrobing Draupadi in the presence of the Bhishm Pitamah who had then cited loyalty to the chair for his inability to act.

Interestingly, while Swaraj sought a response from Mulayam, Abhijat Mishra, national general secretary of the BJP’s youth wing shot off an angry response targeting Khan’s wife Tazeen Fatima, who is a Rajya Sabha member.

In the 2017 UP assembly elections, it was Mayawati and her party which had upped the ante against the then BJP functionary Daya Shankar Singh for making a derogatory remark. Expelled after an uproar, Singh’s re-induction was the first thing that the BJP did when voted to power in Uttar Pradesh.

But why do these leaders make such remarks?

“These are no slip of tongue. Usually such remarks are carefully calibrated to attract attention and polarise opinion. What will you make of a union minister saying if Rahul Gandhi is ‘Pappu’ then should Priyanka Gandhi be called “Pappu ki pappi?” asked Athar Siddiqui of the Centre for Objective Research and Development (CORD).

First Published: Apr 16, 2019 13:05 IST