He stated that he was not in favor of death sentence for rape convicts. His justification for the same was that boys will be too naïve and make “mistakes” and for that, death sentence is a bit too excessive punishment.
This was a well-orchestrated response to the recent court verdict in the Shakti Mills case that rocked Mumbai a year ago. Three of the convicts were handed death sentence for the brutal rape of two women under a new legal provision, Section 370E of IPC that punishes repeat offenders in rape cases with either a life term or a death sentence. Mulayam had earlier, in an effort to make it appear that his government was sympathetic to the cause of rape victims, offered to provide them with jobs, though clearly refusing to take tough action against the perpetrators in the process.
No amount of apologising for these comments or claiming to have been misquoted or misinterpreted will end this fracas. These sexist-tinged remarks from one of the senior-most leaders of the country reflect the deeply ingrained prejudice against women. Filthy, insensitive jibes have been made in the recent past at the drop of a hat. Singh, by doing this, has followed in the footsteps of Lalu Prasad Yadav (who once promised to make the roads in Bihar as smooth as Hema Malini’s cheeks), Sushil Kumar Shinde, and Digvijay Singh (who once referred fellow party colleague Meenakshi Natarajan as a “100% tunch maal”)
In a public rally that Mulayam Singh was addressing in Barabanki a few years ago, he stated how only women from the affluent classes can succeed in life while rural womenfolk will always flounder because they are physically unattractive. These remarks were in respect to his vehement opposition to the Women’s Reservation Bill.
There is no dearth of politicians of the ilk of Singh who exhibit their misogynist and chauvinist side, only to apologise later.
It is indeed a sad reality in the country today as mainstream political parties make reach-outs to regional satraps just to consolidate their presence in the floor of the legislature. A conniving wheeler-dealer at heart, Mulayamji is a man who cannot be trusted to be loyal. Today, he is known for his maneuvering and his overtures to opposing political camps, and few are convinced when he promises to stick with one party though thick and thin.
In a country where caste and family play a significant role in politics, Mulayam’s ascent to the top was almost pre-determined as he belonged to the land-owning lower caste of the Yadavs, who had started off as mostly subsistence farmers and cattle herders, but ever since have graduated to becoming more politically and socially assertive, thanks to the country’s evolving economic scenario.
In all the many years that the state of Uttar Pradesh has seen Samajwadi Paty’s rule, rampant corruption and increased violence has marred the state’s collective psyche. Allegations of associations with criminal syndicates have also risen every now and then against the party.
Other lower caste groups are systematically deprived of some of their more reasonable entitlements in the state today.
Allowing this individual to continue unabated with his design will only spell trouble for the country’s future political landscape. In a hypothetical scenario, where a Congress led-coalition were to come to power after the Lok Sabha elections, it is very likely that they prop up Singh as the prime minister in an attempt to pander to the baser traits of vote-bank politics (Singh is after all the self-professed guardian patron of backward castes and minorities).
His unflinching support will obviously compel the Congress to brush the issue of the illegal wealth case against him under the carpet. The case here being the one which is being investigated into by the Central Bureau of Investigation into his disproportionate assets worth 22 million rupees.
It is only expected for the patronising UPA to keep its complacent silence on this issue, as any show of resentment would violate its secular ethos and endanger its liberal façade. The matter is hence, left up to us.
Merely being aware and pointing fingers about this will not help. It is only the general electorate of the country which can make sure in the coming elections the unenviable task of booting out men such as these for good!