Rajat Sharma


AKB The issue of dignity and self-respect of women is gradually becoming a big issue in the Lok Sabha general elections. On Wednesday, the Election Commission of India issued notices to Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate and BJP leader Dilip Ghosh for their comments against actor Kangana Ranaut and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee respectively. Supriya Shrinate is in the line of fire because a derogatory comment about Kangana Ranaut, BJP candidate from Mandi, was posted on her social media account and later withdrawn. Shrinate later clarified that somebody who had access to her account posted the comment. Dilip Ghosh, BJP candidate from Bardhaman-Durgapur in West Bengal, made a crass remark about Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee by questioning her paternity. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday dialled Sandeshkhali survivor and BJP Basirhat candidate Rekha Patra and spoke to her about her ordeals. It was Rekha Patra who led the protests against alleged sexual harassment of women and incidents of landgrabbing by Trinamool leader Shahjahan Sheikh in Sandeshkhali resulting in a nationwide uproar. Modi, in his telephonic talk, described Rekha Patra as “Shakti Swaroopa” (an embodiment of Mother Goddess). She told the Prime Minister that neither she, nor any woman in Sandeshkhali have not cast their votes in any election since 2011 due to the reign of terror unleashed by Shahjahan Sheikh and his goons. Shahjahan Sheikh is presently in CBI custody. It was on Rekha Patra’s complaint that police was forced to arrest Shibaprasad Hazra, a local goon from Shahjahan’s gang. Rekha Patra had staged protests with other women of Sandeshkhali. She carried her girl child on her waist during protests. Rekha Patra has not even contested panchayat elections. A poor, semi-literate housewife, she has no resources to contest, but Modi decided to field her as the BJP candidate from Basirhat. The party machinery will now be campaigning for her in Basirhat. Modi asked Rekha Patra whether she was facing threats after getting the BJP ticket, and whether the women in Sandeshkhali have gained courage after she had been fielded in elections. Modi assured her that the party would request the Election Commission to make full arrangements for her security and provide protection to voters so that they can cast their votes fearlessly. Modi told Rekha Patra not to worry as the people of Bengal and his party stood by her and she has the blessings of the women of Bengal. Rekha Patra told the PM that women in Sandeshkhali are still living in a state of fear, and many of them are unwilling to speak out openly for fear of retribution from the goons. I am surprised to know that voters in Sandeshkhali have not exercised their franchise since 2011 because of fear and that their votes have been stolen. I feel sad, more so because it was Mamata Banerjee who had uprooted three decades of Left rule in Bengal by giving the slogan “Maa, Maati, Manush”. The Sandeshkhali episode of sexual molestation and land grabbing has conveyed the message that neither Maa (women) is secure in Bengal, nor Maati (land) or Manush (people) are secure under her rule. The manner in which Trinamool Congress and Mamata Banerjee tried to shield Shahjahan Sheikh and his goons has given BJP a big handle to raise the issue of women’s security. The people of Bengal are devotees of Maa Kali. They can tolerate everything but will never tolerate the insult to Maatri Shakti (Women Power). By fielding Rekha Patra as the party candidate from Basirhat, Modi has created problems for Mamata Banerjee in the Lok Sabha elections. Rekha Patra may be contesting from Basirhat, but it will have a cascading effect on voters across Bengal. Mamata Banerjee knows that excesses committed against ‘mothers and sisters’ of Sandeshkhali can cost the party dearly in the elections. Trinamool Congress is badly in search of a strong handle for counter-attack, and BJP leader Dilip Ghosh committed a blunder on Tuesday. Ghosh is facing Trinamool candidate ex-cricketer Kirti Azad in Bardhaman-Durgapur. On Tuesday, he described Kirti Azad as an outsider and said, since TMC has given the slogan, ‘Bengal wants its daughter’, the reality is that ‘Bengal wants her nephew’. Soon after, he made a remark about Mamata Banerjee. He said, “Mamata describes herself as the daughter of Goa whenever she visits Goa, she describes herself as the daughter of Tripura, when she goes to Tripura, she should decide who is her father.” What Dilip Ghosh said about Mamata is unacceptable. Such a crude comment must not be made against any individual, whether it is Mamata or any man or woman. In politics, people do launch verbal attacks in the heat of the moment, but making personal attacks about anybody’s family, is unacceptable. Dilip Ghosh is an experienced, grassroots politician. He has been the national vice-president of BJP, was the state BJP chief, and he represented Medinipur in the last Lok Sabha. When such a leader makes a derogatory comment, one should be worried. Dilip Ghosh may apologize for his comment, but it has already given a handle to Trinamool Congress and Congress. Congress leaders are now using Dilip Ghosh’s remark to protect Supriya Shrinate’s alleged remark about Kangana Ranaut. Supriya is already facing the heat and she claims that the social media comment against Kangana was not approved by her. Supriya has been hitting out at media during TV debates, but she must remember she is heading the social media cell of Congress party. The heat from this controversy is surely going to affect the Congress leadership. BJP leaders Bansuri Swaraj and Navneet Rana have already raised the question why Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who frequently speaks about atrocities on women, is silent on this issue. They are also asking why Rahul Gandhi, who speaks about ‘mohabbat ki dukaan’ is silent when a professional actor has been insulted. Congress cannot save its skin by saying that somebody posted the comment on Supriya’s social media account. Since Supriya is in charge of party’s social media cell, nothing can be posted without her permission. There is a famous lyric: ‘Baat Nikalegi Toh Door Talak Jayegi’.

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