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Wall of Shame: Watch What You Say

Wall of Shame: Watch What You Say

By Editors

Image courtesy: Freepik

As we begin the 10th anniversary edition of the NWMI’s Gender, Media and Elections initiative, launched in April 2014, we bring you a watchlist that provides evidence of the need to continue to keep an eye on gender-related aspects of electoral politics.

For the purpose of this watchlist, we have compiled sexist and misogynistic remarks by political leaders since the announcement of Parliamentary Election poll dates on March 16, 2024.

As this Deccan Herald editorial reminds us, “There are over 100 Lok Sabha constituencies where women outnumber men. Women’s autonomy and dignity should be respected in politics and the electoral arena, and voters should ensure that those who violate them are punished; especially when parties fail to act against them.” 

  • 21 April 2024: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said this at a campaign rally in Rajasthan: “Earlier, when their (Congress) government was in power, they had said that Muslims have the first right to the country’s resources. This means these resources will be collected, and to whom will they be distributed? They will be distributed among those who have more children. They will be distributed to infiltrators. Will your hard-earned money be given to infiltrators? Is this acceptable to you? The Congress manifesto says they will calculate our mothers’ and sisters’ gold, get information about it, then distribute it. And they will distribute it to those about whom Manmohan Singh’s government had said that Muslims have the first right to the country’s resources. Brothers and sisters, this is the thinking of urban naxals. My mothers and sisters, they will not even spare your mangalsutras.”
    Modi’s speech, which misrepresented the Congress’ manifesto and the previous Congress government’s stand on the country’s resources, was widely condemned as hate speech against Muslims. While the Election Commission received several complaints about this, it is important to also draw attention to another troubling aspect of his words: the harping on mangalsutras reflects the patriarchal attitude that links a woman’s identity and worth primarily, often entirely, to her marital status. The mangalsutra is not merely seen as a gold chain among conservatives – it is a symbol of a woman’s elevated social position as a wife, and a metaphor for her husband’s safety and his life. Modi’s claim that women’s mangalsutras would be snatched away from them and given to Muslims was thus more than just a discussion on economics and wealth distribution. Through it, he was implying an existential threat to his target audience from the Muslim community, in deeply patriarchal terms.
  • 18 April 2024: Shiv Sena-UBT leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut was addressing a campaign rally in Amaravati when he said this about actor-turned-politician and BJP’s candidate Navneet Rana: “The Lok Sabha election is a contest not against a dancer or ‘babli’ (a con character in a Hindi film) but a fight between Maharashtra and Modi. She is a dancer, an actor on the screen who will make affectionate gestures, but do not fall for that trap.” The BJP has urged the Election Commission to take strict action against Raut. It was reported that women functionaries of the BJP and Yuva Swabhiman Party also held protests.
  • 13 April 2024: Former Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) said this while addressing a roadshow in Tumakuru, Karnataka: “After the implementation of the Congress’ guarantee schemes, some of our mothers in the villages have lost their way (daaritappiddare)…”. It casts women as ignorant or easily tempted by the schemes and also strips them of the dignity of availing schemes as rightful citizens, and not ‘beneficiaries’ to whom crumbs are scattered. It led to a furore and Kumaraswamy apologised. However, he said Congress was trying to twist his remarks and pointed out comments made by Congress leaders about women recently. Kumaraswamy has received a notice from the Women’s Commission, and Congress has filed a complaint with the Election Commission, seeking legal action.
  • 6 April 2024: Political discourse in India does not shy away from targeting the partners or spouses of political leaders, especially if they are female. BJP leader Basanagouda Patil Yatnal was asked by the media about Karnataka Health Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao’s statement on Bengaluru’s Rameshwaram Cafe blast case. He responded, “Pakistan is in Dinesh Gundu Rao’s house. His house is half-Pakistani,” presumably as Rao’s wife, Tabassum Rao is a Muslim. She has filed a police complaint and also spoken to the Election Commission, she said. She demanded an apology from Yatnal, and asked how he could question her Indian-ness.
  • 3 April 2024: Congress Rajya Sabha MP Randeep Surjewala was seen making these remarks during an election rally in Haryana: “MLA/ MP kyun banate hain? Taaki vo hamari awaaz utta sake, hamarai baat manvaye, isliye banate honge. Koi Hema Malini tho nahi, jo chaatne ke liye banate hain? (Why is someone made an MLA/ MP? It is to raise voices for us, this is why they are made so. Not Hema Malini, who is made for licking?)” In response, Surjewala accused the BJP’s IT cell of ‘distorting’ the clip, and uploading selective bits from it, adding the video must be watched in full, where he speaks of respect for BJP MP and actor Hema Malini. Following the circulation of the video on social media, the Haryana State Women Commission issued summons against him.
  • 30 March 2024: Congress MLA Shamanur Shivashankarappa said BJP’s candidate from Davangere constituency in Karnataka, Gayathri Siddeshwara, is only “fit to cook”, adding that Siddeshwara “cannot even speak properly and should understand her constituency first before seeking votes”.
  • 27 March 2024: DMK MP Kathir Anand on the campaign trail in Tamil Nadu had this to say to women voters while mentioning the government’s financial scheme for women, “I can see that your faces look bright. Is it Fair & Lovely, Ponds’ powder, makeup? I don’t know. What is the reason? Have you got Rs1,000? That’s why” He has said this more than once making clear the implication that women buy cosmetics when provided with financial assistance, attempting to trivialise a woman’s decision-making skills especially with regard to money.
  • 26 March 2024: BJP MP Dilip Ghosh made these comments about West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee while speaking to the media on March 26, 2024: “Didi giye Goate bole ami Goa r mey, Tripura et ami Tripura r mey, baap to thik korun, jar tar mey howa thik noy (When Didi goes to Goa, she becomes Goa’s daughter; in Tripura, she says I am Tripura’s daughter, decide who is your father, this is not right)”.  Following this, the Election Commission and BJP national president J P Nadda issued show-cause notices to Ghosh. The West Bengal Police have also booked him for the comments.
  • 25 March 2024: This derogatory post about actor-politician Kangana Ranaut appeared on the Instagram account of Supriya Shrinate, Chairperson of Congress’ Social Media and Digital Platforms: “Kya bhav chal raha hai Mandi main koi batayega (can someone say what is the going rate in Mandi)” with a photograph of Ranaut and reference to her constituency, Mandi in Himachal Pradesh (Mandi is also market in Hindi). Shrinate denied her involvement, and insisted that the remarks were posted by someone who had access to her accounts. She described the post as “absolutely disgusting and objectionable” and had it taken down. Following this, the Election Commission issued a show-cause notice to her. The Congress also dropped Shrinate from its list of Lok Sabha candidates.


NWMI’s watchlist was featured in The Hindu as part of their elections coverage

We hope this list will lead to an improved awareness about sexist and misogynistic comments this election season, and contribute to an overall reduction. We will be updating this list periodically. If you come across more such instances, please drop us an email at[at]

© 2024 Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI).

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