Senior Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan’s ‘khaki underwear’ remark against BJP’s Rampur Lok Sabha candidate Jaya Prada kicked a political storm on Monday and drew massive criticism from all quarters. However, the passing of such sexist slurs by male politicians in their speeches isn’t a new phenomenon in Indian politics.
Here’s a list of some of the women political leaders who have been at the receiving end of such misogynistic remarks this elections year.
At a public rally with party president Akhilesh Yadav and other senior leaders on the dais, Azam Khan commented on Jaya Prada’s association with the RSS and said, “What is the difference between you and me? People of Rampur, people of Uttar Pradesh and the people of India. It took you 17 years to understand her true face. But I realised in 17 days… that she wears khakhi underwear.”
Jaya Prada had recently joined the BJP and she will be contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Rampur.
Ever since Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was made the Congress’ UP East General Secretary, she has been on the target of the BJP leaders. The criticism she has received, however, goes beyond her belonging to the influential Gandhi family or being married to businessman Robert Vadra, who is an accused in a graft case.
Bihar minister Vinod Narayan Jha said Priyanka is just beautiful and holds no political achievement or talent. “Except for being beautiful, I see no quality that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra may be credited with. Nature has showered its bounty on her. But the Congress should remember that beauty does not garner votes. She is also a novice and her husband faces serious corruption charges,” Jha said.
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Another BJP leader Harish Dwivedi questioned the sense of dressing of the Congress leader. “Priyanka Gandhi wears jeans and top in Delhi but when she comes to rural areas she is clad in a sari and wears sindoor,” Dwivedi was quoted as saying by PTI.
BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya said the Congress does not have candidates to field so they are relying on “chocolate faces“. “A Congress leader demands that Kareena Kapoor should be fielded from Bhopal Lok Sabha seat. Sometimes others talk about fielding Salman Khan from Indore. Likewise, Priyanka (Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra) was also brought into active politics. The Congress does not have strong leaders to field in the next Lok Sabha elections. For this reason, it wants to fight polls through these charming faces,” he told PTI.
BJP leader Mansukh Mandaviya said that having a nose like Indira Gandhi does not make Priyanka like her grandmother. “It is being talked about in the Congress that she (Priyanka) has the nose like her grandmother (Indira). If you get power by having a nose like your grandmother, then won’t there be a president in every household in China?” the BJP leader said at a party rally in Gujarat.
BJP leader Vinay Katiyar said the BJP has star campaigners, like Smriti Irani, who are more beautiful than Priyanka Gandhi. “Usse kya farak padta hai? Unse jyada to bahut si sundar aur mahilaayen, ladkiyan jo star campaigners hain…. heroine hain, wo jyada (sundar) hain… (What difference does it make? There are other women who are more beautiful than her, who are star campaigners… some are heroines…they are more beautiful…),” Katiyar said. He added, “I think Smriti Irani is beautiful and she is also campaigning”.
BJP’s Mathura candidate Hema Malini too had to face sexist slurs from the Congress. Retorting to BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya’s chocolate face remark against Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Congress leader Sajjan Singh Verma said, “It is unfortunate that BJP has a few rough faces which are disliked by everyone within the party. They have Hema Malini who keeps performing dance across the country in an attempt to garner votes.”
Congress president Rahul Gandhi was served a notice by National Commission for Women for saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to hide behind a woman, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, to defend himself from questions over the alleged scam in Rafale deal. “Janata ki adalat se chappan inch ki chaatiwala bhaag gaya, aur ek mahila se kehta hai ‘Sitharamanji, aap meri raksha kijiye, mein apni raksha nahi kar paunga’… Aur aapne dekha dhai ghante mahila raksha nahi kar paayi. Seedha sa sawaal tha mera, haan ya naa dijiye, par woh raksha nahi kar paayi (The one with the 56-inch chest fled from the court of the people and asked a woman that ‘Sitharamanji, defend me, I am unable to defend myself’. You saw that for two-and-a-half hours, the woman could not defend him. I asked a simple question, which required a yes or no answer, but she could not defend him),” Gandhi had said.
BJP MLA from Bairia Surendra Narayan Singh had questioned the age and dressing sense of BSP supremo Mayawati. “Mayawati ji khud roz facial karwati hain, vo kya humare neta ko kya shaukeen kahengi. Baal paka hua hai aur rangeen karwake ke aaj bhi apne aap ko Mayawati ji jawan saabit karti hain, 60 varsh umar ho gayi lekin sab baal kaale hain. (What will Mayawati say to our leaders, she herself gets facial done every day. By colouring her hairs mayawati ji proves herself to be younhg, she is 60 years old and still all her hairs are black.)”
Congress ally People’s Republican Party’s Jaydeep Kawade made sexist remarks against Union minister Smriti Irani. “Smriti Irani talks about changing the constitution with Nitin Gadkari. However, she wears a bindi and someone said that the size of a woman’s bindi keeps growing as she changes her husband,” Kawade told PTI.
During a debate on a news channel, Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam had called Irani “thumkey laganey wali”.
BJP’s Gopal Shetty targeted actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar, saying that she has been chosen by the Congress party to contest Lok Sabha polls only based on her looks. “Urmila ji has been brought to politics because she is a celebrity and because she is a celebrity, she has been brought due to how she looks, why would anyone feel bad about it, there’s no reason. She is from a political family. She has knowledge about politics. But she has chosen a wrong party,” Shetty told ANI.
Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal minister in charge of small industries and textiles Swapan Debnath targeted the woman from the left parties, saying, “We all know about those police officers who arrest their own son for a promotion, to show their honesty. Similarly, we know many women’s wing leaders of CPI-M who used to tear their own blouse and accuse others of molestation.”