Oct. 31: Shashi Tharoor may have had one “50-crore-rupee girlfriend” but Narendra Modi has done better. He has caught the attention of at least half a dozen women.
Half a dozen angry women.
The Gujarat chief minister’s recent comment on central minister Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar has angered several influential women, who said the remark was “sexist” and betrayed a “sick” mind.
Mamata Sharma, chairperson of the National Commission for Women, said she was contemplating legal action against the BJP leader. “It shows his mindset…. I will see what legal action I can take.”
At an election rally on Monday, Modi had without taking Tharoor’s name said his wife was once his “50-crore-rupee girlfriend”.
“There was a Congress leader who was a minister. He was accused of amassing wealth from cricket. He had said in Parliament that he is not connected to the Rs 50 crore in the lady’s name,” Modi said, in an apparent reference to the 2010 “sweat equity” controversy involving IPL Kochi that Pushkar had got embroiled in.
The comment came a day after the Congress MP, who had resigned as minister of state for external affairs in the wake of the controversy, returned as junior HRD minister.
“...And then girlfriend becomes wife, we learn some time later...” Modi had gone on to say. “…the issues are still not settled and he (Tharoor) is now made a minister…. What a girlfriend. Have you ever seen a 50-crore girlfriend?”
Left leader Brinda Karat said the comment was an expression of a “sick and perverted” mind.
Tharoor had hit back, saying his wife was priceless. “But you need2be able2love some1 2understand that,” he tweeted.
The BJP today waded into the row, with spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi saying Tharoor should be given the epithet “international love guru” and made “minister of love affairs”.
Another jibe came from the party’s NRI supporters on their website, friendsofbjp.org, where they posted a poem with the lines: “If the berth is dear, Shashiji, here’s free advice. Make peace with Narenbhai and get free kiss as a gift.”
Kiss and peace weren’t on the lips of Geetha Bakshi, a scribe, who said she found the comment “disgusting”.
Latha Kurien Rajeev, art curator and gallery owner, said: “I don’t think it is in good taste.… So many men in power have issues involving women, sometimes their wives, sometimes it’s their girlfriends…. Moreover, the IPL allegations have still not been proved.”
Public relations professional Parvathy T. termed the comment “cheap and not expected” of a chief minister. “If the problem was about reinstating Tharoor, Modi’s question should have been direct. Why bring his wife into the debate?”
Some activists, however, felt Modi’s comment had been quoted out of context. “I think the media trivialises women’s issues… and picks up sensational bits…. In that same speech he raised several important issues relating to women but the only one that the media considered worth blowing out of all proportion was the frivolous reference to Sunanda Pushkar. This is not to deny that the vocabulary used was in bad taste,” said activist Madhu Kishwar.
The Congress has decided not to help Modi divert attention from issues of public concern in Gujarat, where elections are due in December.
Environment minister Jayanthi Natrajan, asked how she felt about the remark being a woman politician, said: “Where is the question of women… everybody should condemn this remark.”