A Ticket to Brij Bhushan's Son Displays Open Contempt for the Dignity of Women

This can do much larger damage to the image of the current regime than losing a handful of seats in Eastern UP.

4 min read

The BJP has displayed a distressing lack of moral fibre by giving the Lok Sabha ticket from Kaiserganj in Uttar Pradesh to Karan Bhushan Singh, son of local political boss Brij Bhushan, the sitting party candidate, who has been named and shamed as a sexual predator during his stint as president of the Wrestling Federation of India. He has been criminally charged as well.

It is a blatant bid to allow the controversial politician who has been implicated over the past several decades in as many as 39 criminal cases including murder, rioting, kidnapping and now sexual assault to rule through dynastic proxy. This is a new low even by the dubious standards of politics and governance in the country.


It is quite despicable how the BJP high command headed by the prime minister, who claims both to champion women and to have sweeping powers in the party, has capitulated to a local Bahubali (strongman) with influence in Gonda district and surrounding areas. Despite the fierce street protests by the wrestlers demanding action against Brij Bhushan provoking nationwide outrage, he has carried on undaunted apparently with covert support from his party and the government.

Recently, he got his son Karan, appointed as his successor as president of the Uttar Pradesh Wrestling Federation. With him as his proxy in Kaiserganj, and his other son Prateek Bhushan already a party legislator from adjoining Gonda assembly constituency, the BJP appears to have acquiesced to Brij Bhushan proliferating his clan in the region.

In fact, the Bhushan clan boss has been confidently campaigning in Kaiserganj long before his party announced its candidate, clearly disregarding the controversy and adverse publicity swirling around him over the past year or due to the criminal charges of sexual assault and harassment.

When the BJP high command chose to give the Lok Sabha ticket to him through the backdoor by choosing his son, a triumphant Brij Bhushan organised a massive convoy through Kaiserganj of thousands of shouting supporters, with as many as 700 SUVs hailing his victory. He is known to have vast resources that include two helicopters, one private jet and several hotels, hospitals, colleges and schools.

Even as the BJP leader grinned for television cameras playfully arm wrestling with a well-known TV channel anchor, the women wrestlers, who had hoped the government would hear their cry for justice so poignantly raised at street demonstrations in the national capital where they were manhandled by the police, lamented the BJP's decision.

Sakshi Malik, the only Indian woman wrestler to have won an Olympic medal declared with tears in her eyes, "Daughters of the country have lost, Brij Bhushan won. We all put our careers on the line, we slept on streets in the rain and heat. Brij Bhushan hasn’t been arrested till today. We are not asking for anything but justice. Leave aside arrest, by giving an election ticket to his son, they have shattered the aspirations of the country’s millions of daughters."

Regardless of who wins the elections later this month in Kaiserganj and adjoining constituencies which considering the vast financial resources and muscle power of the Bhushan clan in the region may well be bagged by the BJP, this may come at a high cost to the party and the prime minister. Such open contempt for the dignity of women, the seeming collapse of party discipline when challenged by strong-arm tactics and the open espousal of dynastic rule, do much larger damage to the image of the current regime than losing a handful of parliamentary seats in Eastern UP.

For Mr Modi who coined the phrase Beti Bachao, postures as the supreme leader who brooks no indiscipline and endlessly lectures the Opposition on dynastic rule, the entire controversy of Brij Bhusan Saran Singh and his flourishing clan does badly puncture the prime minister’s rhetoric.

To compound the bad optics for the BJP from Kaiserganj is the other political scandal playing out in Karnataka where the party’s main ally Janata Dal (S), now a family enterprise run by former Prime Minister Deve Gowda, is mired in sex and sleaze. Once again, both the prime minister and his party have been found clearly wanting to take a strong stance against moral turpitude that involves sexual offences and the evils of dynastic influence.

In an election year when the ruling party and its leader are seeking a third successive term, such an equivocal approach to moral issues, which they themselves have so strongly preached about, can do serious political damage.

What makes matters worse for the BJP is the silence or weak-kneed defence by its women leaders on burning political issues that concern the rights of their own gender. It is appalling to find even the otherwise prim and proper Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman take up cudgels on behalf of Brij Bhusan Singh on the plea that nothing has been proved against him so far.

Significantly, there has been a rapid increase in women’s participation in both parliamentary and state assembly polls over the past several decades. While women voters have registered a 20 percent increase in national elections since the first one in the early 1950s now equalling men, in assembly polls they are actually voting in larger numbers than their male counterparts. Opinion polls also suggest that voters, particularly the young, are dismayed at the lack of morality exhibited by the typical Indian neta.

It remains to be seen whether the lack of a moral spine will affect the ruling party’s prospects in the national elections despite its vast financial and organisational resources.

(The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist and the author of ‘Behenji: A Political Biography of Mayawati’. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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