The strong alpha male figure that he is in Gujarat, Narendra Modi evokes love and hate in equal measure among women. So, if there’s a sizeable number that dotes on him, dons the BJP’s colours, cheers loudly for their CM and campaigns for him, he also has some of the most consistent and doughty fighters ranged against him, be it Teesta Setalvad, Shabnam Hashmi or Mallika Sarabhai. These women have waged a long anti-Modi crusade, often figuring in bruising TV studio battles on the man and his politics. Now the battle is turning more directly political, with two women—Shweta and Jagruti—taking him on electorally. Neither social activists nor politicians, these are two Brahmin housewives, who have decided to challenge Modi in the electoral arena.
IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt’s wife Shweta has chosen Modi’s own assembly seat, Maninagar, and a Congress ticket to mount her fight. “I’m not a politician,” she tells Outlook. “But I’m fighting a man who has least respect for women in his heart. Not only minorities, his own party workers’ families and women of the state, he has harassed three women of my family: me, my daughter and my 85-year-old mother. He damaged the dignity of the police uniform by sending junior officers to harass us.”
Joining Shweta on the electoral warpath is Haren Pandya’s widow, Jagruti, contesting from her husband’s seat, Ellisbridge, under the aegis of Keshubhai Patel’s new party, the Gujarat Parivartan Party. Pandya was shot dead under mysterious circumstances on March 26, 2003, amidst rumours that people in the Modi regime wanted him out of the way. “I’ve been fighting for justice since the day of my husband’s murder,” says Jagrutiben. “I am going to my voters with the request that they should stand for justice and vote for Harenbhai.” But why the gpp and not her husband’s party? “My candidature and fight is a message to other suppressed BJP leaders and workers victimised by the CM. They must stand up and speak out now.”
The awakening Jagruti Pandya
Modi arouses strong feelings in Gujarat’s women, and certainly not always against him. The BJP, in fact, is fielding more women candidates this election than the Congress (see graphic below). Says Sangitaben Rajendrabhai Patil, BJP candidate from Limbayat, “Women in the state feel safe and protected in the rule of Narendrabhai Modi. He is good to women and at the same time his development programmes have helped us all.” She’s also part of the Modi Samarthak Mahila Mandal (an all-women Modi fan club), which she insists is not formally with the BJP. “We’re not a branch or another face of the BJP; we’re an independent organisation and support our chief minister on the basis of his work,” she says.
A BJP member for several years, Sangitaben may gag on questions regarding development and gender-related issues in the state, but finds a firm voice when talking of their ‘contribution’ to the Modi campaign. It begins with dressing the part—in saffron saris with lotus prints—and going door to door with other women soliciting votes for herself and Narendrabhai. This ‘fan club’ might deny being “another branch or face” of the BJP, but obviously works as an adjunct to the party’s formal campaign.
Modi’s women fans also boast a Muslim name. Asifa Khan began her career as a journalist and is now part of the team managing the media—international and national—covering the polls. “The women opposing Modi,” she declares, “have political motivations. I’m a Muslim and now a member of the BJP because I appreciate the inclusive development in the rule of Modiji.” She had no satisfactory answer, though, when asked why Modi could not give a single ticket to a minority candidate. Asifa had joined active politics in 2008 when Congress master strategist Ahmad Patel (whom Modi now refers to as Ahmad Mian Patel) asked her to. Now, it seems, Modi asked her to, and she saw him as a better prospect.
Whether they love him or hate him, the women around Modi make as much news as the man himself. More so perhaps, if they’re at the opposing end. There’s no let-up in Shweta’s rage against Modi, as she continues to be scathing about his ‘respect’ for women: “He justifies malnutrition among women as a conscious attempt to keep themselves slim. His comments about Sunanda Pushkar too were tasteless.” Challenges like Shweta’s may not amount to much politically, but are no less significant. Though activists like Teesta have stayed away from electoral contests and concentrated on fighting the riots cases, Shabnam Hashmi has been in Gujarat since June and her anti-Modi struggle is acquiring political contours.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Bhat viciously tortured of a simple village Hindu in his Custody that the victim's Kidneys failed and he died within a few days .The case was delayed in courts and by the Politicians .
When all the hurdles were cleared then after eleven years in 2002 and joined hands with Secu Politicians .
Now his wife has stood against Modi in election from Maninagar on Congress Ticket. She has the right.
But while submitting Forms she was helped by Bhat the suspended IPS Officer .
Now per Law Mrs Bhat can't take the support or assistance or help of any Govt Officer whether serving or suspended from ab-initiao to declaration of the Results plus Oath taking ceremonies even not afterwards in any manner or form .
Hence she has broken many Laws and is answerable .
Similarly Mr Bhat can't help or assist or support any persons in any manner from Filling up the Forms to the declarations of the Results and afterwards .
He too is chargeable for breaking the Law .
There is no exemption or exception in any form for any Person including custodial killers .
Mayaben Kodnani was regarded, as these ladies are today, before she was elected. What was the opinion of these ladies about Ms. Kodnani, before her election, if she was known outside her constituency? Men don't work, because the work is not suitable for women. They work, because a woman wouldn't look bad, if they did men's work. It seems, it doesn't matter, if one earns copious amounts, and others feel you are filth, as long as you can express youself freely, on the basis of 'education' and 'money', the two baisakhi's of life. These are what is the excuse of societal interaction. Men and women don't have regard for humanity, because they regard each other, before they regard their own sex, but today, it is o. k. that Mayaben Kodnani is in jail, because she was in politics. What do people like Sonia Gandhi, and Mr. Advani feel about this situation?
Did the readers note the following line penned by Progressive Liberal, secular OUTLOOK below:
"Neither social activists nor politicians, these are two Brahmin housewives, who have decided to challenge Modi in the electoral arena."
What exactly is the need to mention the caste of the two candidates , given that the context under discussion has nothing to do with the caste.
Shows yet again that the Media house that OUTLOOK is will be ready to shed any media ethics if the situation demands (or if their clients demand).
SHAME ON YOU OUTLOOK...
I sympathise with Nasar.. From our side list is much longer Laloo, Mulayam, Ramvilas, Arjun, Diggi, Manmohan and many more.....
I won't include Gandhi family in OUR side
To the Editors of OUTLOOK,
Hope you have read into the post penned by Nasar Ahmed (2D-87). On one hand, OUTLOOK is zealous of banning any comments even though they do not violate the law of land and are not calling for any hatemongering. On other hand such posts like the one by Nasar Ahmed are allowed here in a brazen manner. What is it with OUTLOOK? You guys and your ideological affliations are known but do you not wish to be more responsible in your management of the forums?
I am not reporting it for abuse, but only pointing out the double standards of the media house run by rajan rahejas
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