Indian politicians -- one of them, a wannabe -- have once again (no surprises there!) come up with a host of controversial, communal, divisive, confusing, and outright bizarre comments this year.
Here's our ‘pick’ of some (from the many) statements that we are not going to forget in a hurry:
1. “Would you take sanitary napkins soaked in menstrual blood into a friend’s home? So, why would you take them into the house of God?”
October 23: Union textiles minister Smriti Irani reportedly made this statement (though she later claimed her quote was 'fake news' and that she would prove it with a video) after news that an activist was going to enter Kerala's Sabarimala temple with a sanitary pad. It was later found that several right-wing websites had published unverified reports of the same. Who fell for fake news now?
#WATCH Union Minister Smriti Irani says," I have right to pray,but no right to desecrate. I am nobody to speak on SC verdict as I'm a serving cabinet minster. Would you take sanitary napkins seeped in menstrual blood into a friend's home? No.Why take them into house of God?" pic.twitter.com/Fj1um4HGFk— ANI (@ANI) October 23, 2018
2. "No. I can only say this…we are also cutting heads, but are not displaying them." (Nahin. Main yeh bol sakti hoon…kaat to rahen hain hum, display nahin kar rahen)
September 15: In a reply to a TV anchor on whether the BJP government was giving Pakistan 'a dose of its medicine', India's defence minister hailed the Indian Army and said that while she could not reveal details, forces were indeed killing Pakistani soldiers right at the border but that the Centre was 'not displaying their heads'.
A report in The Wire said that Nirmala Sitharaman’s statement is a direct violation of the Geneva Convention and customary norms of international law on armed conflict.
3. "Hanuman was a forest dweller, deprived and a Dalit."
November 29: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's comments on Lord Hanuman at an election rally continue to provoke debate with Shivpal Yadav's new party even demanding the Hindu deity's 'caste certificate'. If you thought that was the most ridiculous thing you heard, sample this: former Indian cricketer Chetan Chauhan believes that the god was a sportsman who used to wrestle with his enemies and does not want the caste tag attached to his 'sports god'.
The god's 'true identity' remains elusive thanks to confused leaders: BJP's MLC Nawab Bukkal dubbed the deity a Muslim on the ground that his name rhymed with Islamic names like Rahman, Farhan, Ramzan etc. UP's Religious Affairs Minister Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary stated that he belonged to the Jat community, "...because upon seeing someone being troubled a Jat also jumps in even without knowing the issue or the people. Just like Hanuman who following Goddess Sita's abduction by Raavan immediately came to Lord Ram's help as his follower."
4. "Hey, listen you devotee of Allah, sit down or else I will change the name of a mosque to Lord Vishnu's." (Aye Suno Allah ke bhakt ho to baith jao warna kisi masjid ka naam badal kar bhagwan Vishnu ke naam rakh doonga)
November 9: AIMIM leader Sayyed Aasim Vakar implied during a TV debate that by changing the name of Lucknow’s Ekana Stadium to Atal Bihari Vajpayee stadium, the BJP had disrespected the Hindu God Vishnu. (Ekana is another name of Lord Vishnu). In response, BJP spokersperson Sambit Patra kept heckling the leader with "Aye suno, Allah ke bhakt ho ya Bhagwan Vishnu ke bhakt ho. Pehle yeh batao zara (Hey listen, are you a devotee of Allah or Lord Vishnu. First, tell this).”
Sambit to MIM spokesman “Aye Suno Allah ke bhakt ho to baith jao warna kisi masjid ka naam badal kar bhagwan Vishnu ke naam rakh doonga” pic.twitter.com/agM2ClA8SN— Ravi Ratan (@scribe_it) November 9, 2018
The debate was around the recent renaming spree of Muslim-sounding names of historic cities undertaken by the Uttar Pradesh government.
5. “Mr Modi is like a scorpion sitting on a Shivling. You cannot move it with your hand and you cannot hit it with a chappal either."
October 29: The verbose Shashi Tharoor put his foot in his mouth more than once this year. At the Bangalore Literature Festival, while discussing the tussle between the RSS and PM Modi, Tharoor likened the Prime Minister to a scorpion sitting on a Shivling. (‘Shivling mein bichhu baitha hai. Na usko haath se utaar sakte ho, na usko joota maar sakte ho: A scorpion is sitting on Shivling. It can neither be removed by hand nor slapped with a shoe.’)
Tharoor was quoting an unnamed RSS leader who spoke to journalist Vinod Jose of The Caravan in an extensive profile of Narendra Modi before he became Prime Minister.
When BJP leaders attacked him for hurting the sentiments of Shiva devotees, Tharoor’s defence was: "I worship a Shivling at home & carry a miniature Shivling in my pocket daily. Insulting Lord Shiva is unthinkable for me."
2018 was clearly not Tharoor’s year: He drew criticism and legal notices for saying if the BJP was voted to power again, it will rewrite the Constitution that will eventually create a "Hindu Pakistan". And when the BJP hit back with its oft-used ‘go to Pakistan’ phrase, Tharoor asked: ‘They are telling me to go to Pakistan. Who has given them the right to decide that because I am not a Hindu like them, that's why I can't stay in this country? So is there a Taliban emerging within Hinduism now?’ No points for guessing how the Taliban remark was taken.
#WATCH Shashi Tharoor in Bengaluru, says, "There's an extraordinarily striking metaphor expressed by an unnamed RSS source to a journalist, that, "Modi is like a scorpion sitting on a Shivling, you can't remove him with your hand & you cannot hit it with a chappal either."(27.10) pic.twitter.com/E6At7WrCG5— ANI (@ANI) October 28, 2018
That’s not all. A criminal defamation notice notwithstanding, Tharoor went on to make another dig by calling PM Modi ‘a hero on a white stallion (horse) with an upraised sword in his hand saying I know all the answers".
6. “Women file rape complaints after they fight with men they had been roaming around with.”
November 15: Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar at a public rally said, "Around 80-90 per cent of the rape and molestation cases happen between people who are familiar with each other. They roam around together for days, and when they finally squabble one day, the woman files an FIR saying that she has been raped."
He continued to defend himself amidst the backlash that followed, claiming, "I did not say that it (rape) is consensual, all I said was that it happens between known people. This is not something that I have said but is a fact that has come out after investigations. We should deal with this socially and not involve politics in it.”
Remember his 2014 comment? "If they (women) really want to enjoy their freedom of choice, why don't they just roam around naked? Freedom has to be limited. These short clothes are Western influences. Our country's tradition asks girls to dress decently," he had said.
Incidentally, the abduction and brutal gang rape of a 19-year-old girl from Haryana's Rewari shocked the nation this year.
7. Reporter: "Is the BJP that dangerous?"
Rajinikanth: "If they (opposition parties) are saying so, then it must be true."
11 November: Tamil superstar Rajinikanth gave us one tricky answer after the other, leaving us all clueless on what he actually meant. Sample this:
To a reporter who asked Rajini outside Chennai airport if the BJP is so dangerous that all opposition parties are coming together against it, Rajinikanth smiled and replied cryptically, "If they (opposition parties) are saying so, then it must be true", in reference to the grand anti-BJP alliance that is being formed.
The actor, who is believed to be close to the BJP, threw another volley: 'Implementation of demonetisation was wrong’.
Just when we were all wondering if the actor was taking a cue from his on-screen persona, the deeply political ‘Kaala’, and turning critic of the ruling party, he quickly clarified the next day, "I said opposition parties believe BJP is dangerous, not me. People will decide if BJP is a dangerous party.”
Confused? Rajini quipped that he ‘could not have been clearer’, then added “When 10 persons go against one person (PM Modi), who is stronger? Those 10, or the persons they are aligning against. If 10 persons declare war against one man, who is stronger?”
We don’t get him. Do you?
8. "Give rest to Vasundhara. She looks too tired and has gained too much weight. Earlier she was slim. She is our Madhya Pradesh's daughter." (Vasundhara ko aaram do, bahut thak gayi hain, bahut moti ho gayi hain, pehle patli thi. Humare Madhya Pradesh ki beti hai)
7 December: A fat-shaming slur was thrown in too for a change, this year. Loktantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav said Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje should take rest as she has gained weight.
He clarified: "It was a joke. I have known her for a long time. It was in no manner a derogatory remark. I didn't say it to hurt her. When I met her then also, I told her that she is gaining weight.”
But, alas, nobody found his joke funny with Raje urging the Election Commission to take action against the senior politico.
9. "I request you to let Renuka ji continue. After the Ramayana serial, we got the privilege of hearing this kind of laughter only today." (Meri aapse vinti hai Renuka ji ko kuch mat kahiye. Ramayan serial ke baad aisi hansi sunne ka saubhagya aaj jaake mila hai)
7 February: Women laughing out loud seems to be something men can't tolerate even today as was seen in Parliament this year. When PM Modi was responding to a debate, Congress MP Renuka Chowdhury was heard laughing loudly. Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, the chairperson of Rajya Sabha, was admonishing her when PM Modi asked him to let her continue chortling as he hadn’t heard laughter like hers since the epic Ramayana serial of the 1980s. His comments seemingly likened it to the evil laugh of Surpanakha, the sister of demon king Ravana.
While the Congress demanded an apology, most others stood by the PM’s side including minister Smriti Irani who said ‘gender could not be used as a shield’ when someone made indecent remarks about the PM.
Who insulted whom really?
10. "Internet and satellite communication had existed in the days of Mahabharata."
18 April: Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb claimed that it was the internet which helped King Dhritarashtra’s advisor track developments in the battle between the Kauravas and Pandavas. Yes, that's right. He said Sanjaya (the charioteer of king Dhritarashtra) used the technology to give a detailed account and description to the blind king about the battle of Kurukshetra.
With full confidence, Deb said: "How could Dhritarashtra see through Sanjay's eyes? There was technology available at that time... Internet was there, satellite communication was there."
The Internet, needless to say, exploded with memes on Deb:
He courted controversy by wondering how Diana Hayden won the Miss India crown when in his eyes, only Aishwarya Rai 'represented the essence of Indian beauty'. "...Indian beauty is all about Goddess Laxmi, Goddess Saraswati... Diana Hayden does not fit to that class of beauty," he remarked.
He never seems to learn, does he?