If you thought the flying of paper planes during a Parliament debate this month insuperably lowered the bar for public discourse, you were wrong.
In the weeks since Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan got up to admonish opposition MPs for trying their hand at origami on January 2, India’s netas have behaved in ways that might earn a college student or salaried employee a suspension — at the very least.
Sexism and attacks targeting woman politicians have been a feature of this month’s gandi baat. Here’s a quick recap.
‘He asked a woman to defend him’
Rahul Gandhi told voters in Rajasthan this month that Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked “a woman” — Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman — to defend him in Parliament, and that she had failed to do so. He later lectured PM Modi on Twitter to “be a man”.
This, from the same gentleman who once tweeted with the hashtag #MeToo: “It’s about time everyone learns to treat women with respect and dignity.”
‘Very beautiful, but no talent’
If Rahul Gandhi has been accused of sexism, his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra — the new Congress general secretary for eastern Uttar Pradesh — has faced it. Not to mention personal attacks of other kinds.
Bihar minister Vinod Narain Jha, who’s from the BJP, said Priyanka Gandhi was “very beautiful” but had no talent or political achievement. Pramod Kumar, also a Bihar minister from the saffron party, said she was “still a child”. (She is 47.)
Yet another BJP politician, Kailash Vijayvarigya, said the Congress had no leader and wanted to contest polls by banking on “chocolatey” faces. “Somebody takes Kareena Kapoor’s name while others ask for Salman Khan. Now they have brought in Priyanka Gandhi,” he said.
Vijayvarigya later said he used the term “chocolatey” face for Bollywood actors.
Subramanian Swamy, a BJP Rajya Sabha MP, said Priyanka Gandhi had bipolar disorder and a violent character. And Bihar’s deputy chief minister, Sushil Kumar Modi, called her “a woman with a tainted life partner”.
‘Worse than a eunuch’
Priyanka Gandhi’s appointment as a Congress general secretary may have given her party a boost ahead of the Lok Sabha election — but she isn’t the only player in the Uttar Pradesh race. Heavyweights Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party recently announced a tie-up, and BSP leader Mayawati has been the target of some extremely distateful comments.
BJP MLA Sadhna Singh criticised Mayawati for joining hands with the party that humiliated her in the 1995 guest house incident, and said the BSP leader was worse than a “kinnar” — or eunuch.
Sadhna Singh said Mayawati was “neither a man nor a woman”. She later apologised.
Then Mahendra Nath Pandey, the chief of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, brought up the guest house incident again. He said he saw on social media that a youth had written about Akhilesh Yadav, the SP’s leader, wrapping a shawl around Mayawati.
“He [the youth] wrote in his post, putting words in Akhilesh’s mouth: this is the same shawl which my father took off in the guest house,” Mahendra Nath Pandey said.
Attacks on woman politicians weren’t the only gandi baat from this month. Take, for instance, Congress Rajya Sabha MP BK Hariprasad saying that events unfolding in Karnataka had caused BJP chief Amit Shah to panic and contract “suar ki beemari” — using the Hindi word for pig. Amit Shah had swine flu.