PATNA: Veteran parliamentarian and senior JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav’s comments about the sanctity of vote and his way of likening it to the honour of daughters sparked protests in Bihar on Wednesday even as leaders of Bihar’s ruling alliance were caught off guard by Yadav’s choice of analogy.
“Beti ki izzat se bhi vote ki izzat badi hai. Beti ki izzat jayegi to gaon aur muhalle ki izzat jayegi. Vote ek baar bik gaya, ek baar garbar ho gaya to ilake ki, desh ki, sube ki izzat aur aabru badhane ka sapna poora kaise ho payega?” (The dignity of votes is bigger than that of a daughter. If a daughter is sold away, it brings disgrace to the village. If votes are sold away and such disruption takes place, the dream of raising the dignity of the state and the nation cannot be fulfilled) asked Yadav in his speech at a public ceremony in Patna on Tuesday organised to mark the 92nd birth anniversary of socialist icon and former Bihar chief minister Karpoori Thakur.
JD(U) defended the former JD(U) national president’s comments, saying there was nothing sexist or misogynist in his words. “He had merely tried to draw attention to the sanctity and power of the ballot in elections. His words are being misconstrued. There is nothing wrong in what he said,” said party national general secretary KC Tyagi.
“People are seeing wrong connotation in my words. I have affection for daughters and respect for women. All I wanted to convey was that the casting of votes should be done with conscience the way we hold our daughters with honour,” explained Yadav, 69, on Wednesday.
In 2015, Yadav was accused of airing sexist views when he said in parliament that Indians are obsessed with fair-skinned people and then went on to describe the beauty of “sanwli” (dusky) South Indian women. When Union minister Smriti Irani objected to his words, Yadav had curtly said, “I know what you really are.”
Yadav had also earlier courted controversy during a discussion on the Bill for women's quota by using the term “parkati auraten” (short-haired women) to oppose the quota.
His latest comments were criticised by several women’s organisations and activists and National Women Commission also issued him a notice. The youth wing of NDA partner LJP of Ram Vilas Paswan staged a protest in Patna asking Yadav to retract his words and apologise.
“It seems he has no idea what it means to have a woman as one’s wife or daughter. It is unfortunate that such leaders are talking about women and girls. They bring everything down to vote and capturing power,” said Sudha Varghese, a well-known social activist and Padma Shri recipient.
BJP’s Bihar state president Nityanand Rai said: “Daughters have a dignity that is different from the dignity of votes. He should not have combined the two”.
“He (Yadav) should explain what he meant. I cannot comment on a senior leader’s statement,” said Bihar deputy chief minister Tejaswi Yadav.