BJP leader Naresh Agrawal makes a sexist comment against Jaya Bachchan, calling her a dancing girl of films. Photograph:( Zee News Network )
The remarks made by Naresh Agrawal, who recently joined the BJP, against Jaya Bachchan brought out the worst our politics has to offer. But equally refreshing was the united front our women MPs put forward when it came to criticising Agrawal, a former Samajwadi Party leader.
Irrespective of differing political ideologies, the unity among women politicians showed how much they value women's dignity. While women had been fighting a tough battle for their political inclusion to bridge the gender disparities in the nation, some male political leaders are irked by the same.
Agrawal showed his resentment over being denied a chance to enter the Rajya Sabha. Samajwadi Party, which had only one Rajya Sabha seat from Uttar Pradesh, chose actor-turned-politician Jaya Bachchan over Agrawal. This displeased him, to such an extent that he quit the party. But within a few hours of joining BJP, he openly projected his envious feeling against Jaya Bachchan at a press conference on Monday, making a misogynist comment that he was denied the Rajya Sabha ticket for somebody who "used to dance in films".
The sexist comment rattled not only the targeted Mrs. Bachchan, but many other women politicians. Although political parties are always ready to demean other party's leaders, this time the dirty politics was beaten by a strong condemnation, in the form of an outcry not just from Agrawal's party but other fellow politicians as well.
BJP leader Smriti Irani, who is herself fighting a defamation case against Sanjay Nirupam for allegedly making a sexist remark about her political entry, was the most vocal of Agrawal's critics. She was amongst the first ones taking a bold stand in favour of Jaya Bachchan. She expressed her emotions on Twitter.
My case is in the court of law for 5 years now. But let my battle not be an excuse to humiliate other women. In fact let it be a reminder for us that when a woman’s honour is challenged we stand as one in our condemnation irrespective of our politics. https://t.co/beneLYVHnk— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) March 12, 2018
Jaya Bachchan got support from other women political leaders too. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj rebuked Agrawal in a tweet, expressing her strong objection to his remark.
Shri Naresh Agarwal has joined Bhartiya Janata Party. He is welcome. However, his comments regarding Jaya Bachhan ji are improper and unacceptable.— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) March 12, 2018
The horde fighting for and supporting the dignity of women in politics further grew when BJP leader Roopa Ganguly, another actor-turned-politician, exhibited her dismay over Agrawal's comment.
#JayaBachchan very sad comment of Mr Naresh Agarwal. I Do not accept this.. this is not bjp leadership. I am proud of Jaya di's contribution to the film industry and also as a parliamentarian. @BJP4India @narendramodi @AmitShah @BJP4Bengal @jayabachhan445— Roopa Ganguly (@RoopaSpeaks) March 12, 2018
We respect you Jayadi
Though Agrawal's remarks were disheartening for the entire female population, it united women politicians with harmony and mutual empathy. Each and every stand in favour of Jaya Bachchan showed that political failures cannot be used as an excuse to malign the dignity of a woman. Whether it is Smriti Irani or Jaya Bachchan, if the question is about women's dignity then no matter which political party a woman leader belongs to, her stature will always be above inter-party differences.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)