India is a country where we worship feminine power in its many forms — from Lakshmi for abundance of wealth to Saraswati for education and Kali for destruction.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has been shouting empty slogans of “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” for far too long now. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hoardings, splashed across the country, kept saying “Bahut hua naari par atyachaar, abki baar Modi sarkar”. It still rings a bell as the NCRB data was released a few days ago.
Uttar Pradesh, which sent the highest number of BJP members to Parliament again in 2019 and has a brute majority in the legislative Assembly, is the No. 1 state in terms of crimes against women. The state has seen a consistent rise in crime in 2015-2017. The crimes registered under the Indian Penal Code and special and local laws in UP rose from 4,74,559 in 2015 to 6,00,082 in 2017. At 15.6 per cent, crimes against women are the highest in this state, but the rising trends are worrisome. Uttar Pradesh is followed by Maharashtra (8.9 per cent) and West Bengal (8.6 per cent).
The Unnao rape and the BJP's blatant misuse of power to protect MLA Kuldip Sengar for the longest time are relatively recent incidents. In 2017, Uttar Pradesh reports 5,830 sexual harassment crimes — which is one-fourth of the total number of cases in this category that took place in the country. In Haryana, the BJP’s sitting chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar had the gumption to call even Congress president Sonia Gandhi all sorts of names during the recently-concluded state elections. It now seems that to hold on to power in Haryana, the PM may take the help of Gopal Kanda, an Independent MLA, who got a jail term for the murder of an airhostess working in his airline company. The result, which included loss of ministers and heavyweights, can also be seen as a wake-up call for the government in Uttar Pradesh. It cannot just count on Mr Modi’s image in the state and work on “good governance”.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP, from where many ministers and chief ministers have come, has a long-standing record of disrespecting women with statements regarding their attire and their place in today’s India. One can even remember Mr Modi’s remarks of “Jersey cow” and “50 crore girlfriend”. And who can forget that a BJP minister has labelled our friends in the media “presstitutes”?
In the backdrop of such vile attacks on our women leaders and citizens, the Haryana election where fantasies like “plots in Kashmir” and “Kashmiri brides” were used liberally by BJP leaders to entice voters during the campaign, led to a result wherein the BJP does not have a simple majority any more and the Congress has resurged. In Haryana, along with former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, it was Kumari Selja leading the charge.
The byelections in Uttar Pradesh, too, have shown that Mayawati, whose party BSP rarely contests by-elections, got zero seats while the Congress more than doubled its vote share to 12.80 per cent under the leadership of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who has been continuously raising the Unnao case and the Ubbha massacre in Sonbhadra district, where 10 members of the Scheduled Tribes were gunned down. Ms Vadra has been visiting the family members of the victims and consoling them in their time of grief. This time, women voters have noticed the dismal situation across the country and punished the BJP for taking no stringent action in Haryana or Uttar Pradesh against rising crime.
In the backdrop of this, besides the economic woes around the country, rising prices hurting us all, an almost “no demand” economy, with barely any jobs, women voters have silently started to ditch the Modi bandwagon. Maybe, the Prime Minister should start becoming wary of Stree Shakti and start working toward real vikas, after all, for its absence could otherwise be the death knell for the Modi government.
Gaurav Kapoor is secretary, UP, in the research department of the Congress Party and a long-term resident of Varanasi.
Rishabh Jain is a researcher based in Varanasi with many an election cycle experience, including formerly with i-PAC.