Kamal Nath Calling an Opposition Leader “Item” is Sexism as Usual for Women Politicians


Kamal Nath Calling an Opposition Leader “Item” is Sexism as Usual for Women Politicians

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

In November, by-polls are due to be conducted in Madhya Pradesh for 28 seats in the state’s legislative assembly. As the campaigning for these seats has begun, Kamal Nath, the former Chief Minister of the Congress government, might have done more harm than good to his party candidate’s fortunes with his remarks at a campaign meeting. Nath was caught on video referring to Imarti Devi, the opposing candidate from the Bharatiya Janata Party, as an “item” to cheers from his audience. Devi was among the legislators from the Congress party who resigned from the party earlier this year, leading to the collapse of Nath’s government in Madhya Pradesh.

Kamal Nath’s ignorant comments have rightfully stoked outrage. Devi, the subject of Nath’s remarks, hit back at him by saying, “I want to appeal to Sonia Gandhi, who is also a mother, to not keep such people in her party. If such words will be used for women then how can any woman move forward?”

Other figures also came forward to protest against the language used by Nath. Representatives from Devi’s party, the BJP, met with officials of the Election Commission to complain against Nath for insulting the Dalit leader. The state’s current CM, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, declared a silent protest on Monday, October 19.

Supreme Court advocate Karuna Nundy also slammed Nath and spoke about how in the US, Kamala Harris was also mocked in a similar fashion.

Others, appalled by the remark, outraged on Twitter.

While it’s embarrassing every time a politician makes a sexist remark, it’s not unprecedented. From national parties like the Congress and the BJP to regional parties like Samajwadi Party, there is no shortage of leaders who at one point or the other, have put their feet in their mouths by voicing an outdated notion about gender, or using an offensive term for women. Nath’s “item” remark brings to mind memories of BJP MLA Ram Kadam promising to kidnap brides against their will for prospective grooms, or SP’s Azam Khan making sexist remarks in Parliament or commenting on the colour of an opposing politician’s underwear.

When will our male politicians realise they are living in 2020, not 1920?