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What Modi displayed was chauvinism of the worst kind

November 01, 2012 12:19 IST

Calling the very much married Sunanda Pushkar a 'Rs 50 crore girlfriend,' though, is not just crude, but is meant to demean her. Women may come for a price in Modi's world, but that's hardly the mindset we want to see in a modern day leader, argues Sherna Gandhy.

Not much is known about the love life of Narendra Damordardas Modi, chief minister of Gujarat and desperately seeking to be chief of the country come 2014.

Some say he is alleged to have married one Jasodabhen Modi. A Tehelka article claims they were married as children and Modi never accepted the marriage later.

For, going by his attacks on Sonia Gandhi and now Sunanda Pushkar, wife of politician Shashi Tharoor of Kochi Tuskers fame, Narendrabhai doesn't seem to have a very high opinion of women.

Sonia Gandhi is his favourite punching bag, but as a political opponent, she has to expect that, though I don't think his attacks would have been quite so consistent and persistent had the Congress president been a man.

After all, his jibe against the prime minister was comparatively mild. Punning may be the lowest form of humour, but 'Maun' Mohan Singh isn't bad as puns go and not vicious. It was probably aimed more at Sonia for muffling the voice of her PM.

Calling the very much married Sunanda Pushkar a 'Rs 50 crore girlfriend', though, is not just crude, but is meant to demean her. Women may come for a price in Modi's world, but that's hardly the mindset we want to see in a modern day leader.

Apart from being cheap and unfunny, it smacks of the insecurity some males feel when faced by a glamorous, self-assured woman. They feel an urge to cut her down to size and the only way they know how to do it is by questioning her morals.

Since the intention was also to taunt her husband who has been re-inducted into the Union ministry, it betrays the khap mentality: The honour of the male is guarded by his womenfolk.

It's the worst kind of chauvinism.

Not so long ago, Modi gave us his take on why half the women in his state are undernourished. Asked to account for this in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he said it was not for lack of food, but because Gujarati girls and women are more beauty conscious than health conscious.

Like, you know, young girls have nothing to do all day but gaze into mirrors and devise the latest diet fads on the one-chappati-and-dal daily food intake.

After his allegation that Sonia Gandhi spent thousands of crores of rupees on foreign trips fell flat, Modi came rattling in with yet another attack during his election tour of Himachal Pradesh.

Modi attacked Sonia for criticising the Himachal government for not utilising the Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100 billion) allocated by the Centre for the state's development. He demanded to know whether Sonia brought the money as part of her dowry.

Why a state government cannot be asked to account for the money it is given is a mystery. And personalising the issue by dragging dowry into it reminds his audience once again that she is but an upstart woman.

Bachelors -- if Narendrabhai is one -- can be expected to have a somewhat jaundiced view of the opposite sex. But there are enough male chauvinists in this country without burdening us with one sitting at the very top of the pyramid.

Sherna Gandhy