27, Mar 2019 | Sushmita
Some elected officials, conspicuously from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have constantly been in the news for their regressive remarks on women, reflecting an indoctrinated hatred for women and other genders. Topping this list is BJP MLA Surendra Singh who recently passed a remark on former India National Congress (INC) President Sonia Gandhi. The comment was not just misogynistic, but disrespectful, and demeaning.
On media reports of the induction of popular Haryanvi actress and dancer Sapna Singh to the Congress, the MLA said that Congress President Rahul Gandhi is following the footsteps of his father, the late Rajiv Gandhi by inducting a “dancer” in Congress, insulting not only the politician but also the community of dancers and actors. “Rahul ji ki Mata ji bhi Italy mein isi peshe se thi. Jaise aapke pitaji ne Sonia ji ko apna bana liya tha, aap bhi Sapna ko apna banaye. Sabse acchi baat hai saas aur bahu ek hi peshe aur culture se rahengi. (Rahul Gandhi’s mother (Sonia Gandhi) was in the same profession when she was in Italy. The way your (Rahul Gandhi’s) father started a family with Sonia ji, you should also start a family with Sapna Chaudhary. The best thing is both mother-in-law and daughter-in-law will be from the same dancing profession),” Singh said.
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There is more from this ruling party representative.
The MLA defended Unnao rape accused BJP MLA from Unnao, Kuldip Singh Sengar last year. In April 2018, when the Unnao rape case had just come to light, he said that no one can rape a mother of three children while defending the rape accused. He said, “I am speaking from psychological point of view; no one can rape a mother of three children. It is not possible, this is a conspiracy against him (Kuldeep Singh Sengar),” Surendra Singh had told ANI.” Within months he made another controversial statement saying that every Hindu couple should have at least five children in order to make “Bharat mazboot(strong)”.
In June, 2018, he also said that prostitutes are better than government officials, as they at least “work” after charging money.Singh said, “Officials se accha charitra vaishyaon ka hota hai, woh paisa lekar kam se kam apna kaam toh karti hain aur stage pe naachti hain. Par yeh officials toh paisa lekar bhi aapka kaam karenge ki nahi, iski koi guarantee hi nahi hai (Prostitutes are better than government officials; at least they take money and do their work and also dance on the stage. But these officials, even after taking money, don’t do their work. There is no guarantee that the work will be done).”
In April 2018, the MLA compared West Bengal (WB)’s Chief Minister with the mythological figure Surpanakha saying,“ Mamata Banerjee is playing the role of Surpanakha. People are getting killed on streets and she being the Chief Minister is not doing anything about it, such leaders are not good. Hindus are not safe in Bengal. If nothing is done about it, Bengal will face situation like that in Jammu and Kashmir. Hindus will be ousted from Bengal just like it happened in Jammu and Kashmir”. It must be known that although Surpanakha is portrayed as a demon in upper caste, Brahmanical narratives, she is perceived as a Goddess among many communities.
MLA Singh has had an interesting trajectory. He is the resident of Chandpur village of Ballia Lok Sabha constituency. Singh graduated in 1983 and finished his Bachelors of Education (B. Ed.) in 1984. He completed his Masters of Arts (MA) in 1987. After this, he started working as a teacher in the nearby Dube Chapra village. However, much before he started teaching officially he had also started attending classes conducted by the Sangh. He became a Sangh pracharak alongside. His role as a pracharak saw several promotions. However, he separated from the Sangh in 2003 and formed his organisation called Dwaba Vikas Manch and even nominated an independent candidate from his organisation for 2003 Assembly elections. Bharat Singh, BJP’s candidate, supported by the Sangh lost elections. Between 2011 and 2012 Surendra Singh joined Congress and left. Thereafter, his proximity with BJP grew again, especially when Bharat Singh was contesting the Lok Sabha elections in Ballia. After Bharat Singh became a member of the 16th Lok Sabha, he extended support to Surendra Singh and, in 2017, Surendra Singh became an MLA. However, now he has become a thorn in the eyes of Bharat Singh. His speech about India and Pakistan was also delivered at Bharat Singh’s program.
Surendra Singh has had a history of physical violence too. He has been accused of supporting the sand mafia active in Ballia, which lies on UP-Bihar border.
Despite this barrage of ultra-regressive, misogynistic rhetoric, he has carried on with his rampage and his political career indicating the inclination of the party he belongs to. On the one hand the BJP is trying to project itself as champions of the cause of Muslim women by bringing an ordinance that criminalises Triple Talaq, effectively denying Muslim women any agency on the recourse available to them, on the other such politicians are given a free hand to go on with their act. This is also a way to stay in sensationalist mainstream news and to appeal to others who have such misogyny internalised.Moreover, BJP has had a history of such politicians who get away with hate and extreme speech. Sangeet Som, Suresh Rana being just a few of them.
MLA Singh’s statements are clearly not an exception. They seem crucial for a worldview that is both based on othering and hatred. Per the law, it is also unconstitutional. For the RSS and BJP, however, stoking such sentiments is clearly a necessity for survival.