Challenged by ‘outsider’ Narendra Modi on his home turf and his loyal Muslim vote bank showing signs of a drift towards Mayawati’s BSP, SP chief Mulayam Singh is a shaken man these days.
At a rally here on Friday, the SP chief made it a point to withdraw his controversial remark, “rape mistake, boys commit” to assert that his party has utmost respect for women. In Sambhal, as in the other UP seats that will go to the polls in the next phase on April 17, the SP has some strong candidates, who are expected to do well especially in the rural belt. But in an election which is driven by perceptions, Mulayam releases that he may well lose the battle if he does not do a course correction. Or appear to do, even in the hinterland.
The new electorate, he told this correspondent on the sidelines of the rally, “is too learned”-- a clear hint that he accepts the way “politics is being done has changed” and that the political parties have now got to refashion their positions, keeping in mind the opinion of the youth.
Also mindful of the strong reactions that his remarks drew across the country, Mulayam seemed to be wanting to make amends. “I have utmost respect for women and girls--I was talking about the issue of death sentence. It got mixed up,” he adds, blaming the media.
But he admits that the Gen Next of his party has a different point of view and so does the women leaders and they want him to nuance his statements--”But in the dehawat (villages) people talk directly”.
The National Commission of Women(NCW) has already sent him a notice following the outpouring against his controversial remark.
Mulayam, however, maintained that the death penalty for rape “is an unfair law” when “the world is rethinking the issue and it is not bringing down the crimes against women”.
Taking a cue from Mulayam, his party leader Abu Azmi made similar hostile and obnoxious comments on rape victims in Mumbai. The outrage was so much that Azmi’s son, who is contesting the elections, had to distance himself and the party from his father’s views.