New Delhi: As parliamentary election 2019 campaign enter the last lap in Kerala, political parties are heightening their pitch to woo voters. The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) is focussing on their policies that have benefited the masses, while the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seem to be competing with each other in making communal and misogynist statements.
On Tuesday, K Sudhakaran, the UDF candidate in Kannur constituency, released a video replete with sexist and misogynistic undertones as part of his election campaign. The video, posted on his official Facebook page, points at his main rival and sitting parliamentarian of Kannur, PK Sreemathi of CPI(M). Indirectly pointing at Sreemathi, the ad implies it is a mistake to send a woman to Parliament from Kannur, instead, a man should be elected.
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In the video, a man is seen regretting for sending his daughter to an unnamed place, since she is not capable of getting things done. This is a reference to Kannur’s decision to elect Sreemathi to Lok Sabha in 2014 elections. Following these comments, another man is seen visiting the house of the first man, saying “It won’t work if she just goes and talks, she had got a chance once, right? They did not even understand what she had said. Educating her and letting her become a teacher was a waste.”
I told you earlier that a man should go and ask. But you didn’t listen. Now, a man must go,” the visitor reiterated his sexist remark, again ostensibly targeting Sreemathi.
After this, the first man admits his ‘mistake’ and says: “You are right. I made one mistake, which everybody is allowed make one...” Following this, the visitor proclaims that he is a man, and if he goes, he can get the work done.
The video invited strong criticism from various corners and many people opposed it.
Sreemathi has a record of effective interventions in the Lok Sabha as a parliamentarian. Known as Sreemathi teacher, she was the health minister in the 2006-2011 LDF government, and oversaw an improvement in Kerala’s health sector, which has become a role model for the rest of the country. Sreemathi is in the fray for the second consecutive time for Lok Sabha.
Sudhakaran’s party has fielded two women candidates this time round, and the people who have criticised his anti-women stand are questioning him if he has the same opinion about his party’s two women candidates, too. Young Congress leaders, Remya Haridas and Shani mol Usman, have been fielded from Alathur and Alappuzha Lok Sabha constituencies, respectively.
Sudhakaran is known for making sexist remarks. In January this year, he had passed a sexist remark about Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. He had reportedly said the party expected Vijayan to manage the administration effectively, but “he had turned out to be even worse than a woman.”
On Wednesday, Kerala Women’s Commission registered a case against Sudhakaran for promoting anti-women content in his Facebook handle. The case was registered as per the direction of KWC chairperson MC Josephine, the commission said in a press release.
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On the other side, BJP state president PS Sreedharan Pillai also made a derogatory remark on Muslims, saying they can be identified by removing their clothes, referring to circumcision. While campaigning for Shobha Surendran in Attingal constituency, Pillai mentioned the Balakot air strike by the Indian Air Force and said: “Our Rahul Gandhi, (Sitaram) Yechury and Pinarayi (Vijayan) are saying our soldiers have to go there and see the count of dead... their caste, religion etc.”
“If it is Islam, there are some signs, no?” He continued saying, “If you remove their clothes you will be able to know. We have to do that, that is what they are saying.” He made these comments while trying to counter the questions being raised by various international media houses.
V Sivankutty of CPI(M) filed a complaint with the state election commission on behalf of his party, against Pillai’s communal comment. Responding to Pillai’s remark, CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said: “This is a part of their highly deplorable communal campaign.”
BJP leaders at the Centre, too, are making full-fledged communal comments. In Kerala, they did try to sound relatively neutral and democratic. But after the first phase of campaigns was over, both BJP and UDF sensed a backlash and dragged the Sabarimala issues into debates. Now, the campaigns of both are mainly confined to the Sabarimala issue.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his campaign in Tamil Nadu, said that the Left and Muslim League were playing dangerous games with respect to Sabarimala in Kerala. They are trying “to strike at the root of faith and aspiration.” The CPI(M), however, wrote to the Chief Election Commissioner demanding action against Modi for violating the model code of conduct and communally polarising the voters on the Sabarimala.
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