Women candidates standing from different parties being shamed not only affects their mental health and reputation in public, but also the reputation of the party they represent.
Bangalore, April 11, 2019: Lok Sabha elections are seeing a rise in women candidates being shamed on the basis of their gender. Recently, Priyanka Gandhi, an Indian politician and Sapna Choudhary, speculated to join the Congress Party and came under scrutiny by the opposition parties.
Mohammad Raza, a political analyst from Bangalore called this act a low blow. “It is a political move by the opposition parties in order to discredit their rival party to, obviously, gain more votes. The problem with this move is that it is against the Model Code of Conduct set by the election commission. But nothing is done in this matter as politics is full of such comments and, well, parties do not want to get into any trivial brawls.”
Speaking of Choudhary’s case, a Bhartiya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidate warned Congress to not accept her as their representative because taking her in would mean that the party is not serious about winning the elections. The BJP candidate shamed her by saying that she used to be a dancer and a performer, and such acts do not have a place in politics.
Gandhi, on the other hand, was called out for wearing jeans instead of the traditional attire that women in politics are ‘supposed’ to wear. Another politician and a Rajya Sabha (the Upper house) member, Smriti Irani, was abashed due to her past career in television and media industry.
Raza also said that “parties lose votes and the trust of thousands of people because of the ‘shame-game’. Although there are rigid rules in place, nobody wants any problems, especially during the elections season. And even if a party takes a stance to either support or not support the woman candidate, they will withdraw when the first sign of quarrel arrives.”
Sanjiv Kumar, the Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka said that these cases are hard to pin. “We have set the rules that bind all political parties contesting for the elections, but the main problem is that they are never thoroughly followed. In most cases, women candidates who get shamed online or in-person do not speak about it outside the media and the Internet – which doesn’t help us in determining a strong case. And evidence to prove that a shaming incident has happened is tough to obtain.”