Fifty-three-year old Bharatiya Janata Party leader, Jayanti Bhanushali, resigned as the party’s vice president in Gujarat last week. He was accused by a 21-year-old woman of raping her.
This was however not an isolated case. This year in particular has witnessed a growing number of rape charges levelled against BJP leaders—which incidentally has the largest number of MPs and MLAs with cases of crime against women, according to the findings of a study released by the Association for Democratic Reforms in April this year.
In the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the party had not only politicised violence against women but made full political capital by launching a blistering advertisement campaign with the catch phrase, ‘Bahut Huwa Naari pe Vaar, Ab Ki Baar Modi Sarkar’ .
Following nation-wide outrage over the Nirbhaya rape and murder case in December, 2012 in Delhi, the campaign became a hit. It can be seen here:
The video shows a woman who has sent her young daughter to a city for higher education, talking about growing incidents of loot, kidnapping and rapes. Visibly worried, she wonders if she had committed a mistake by allowing her daughter to pursue studies in the far-off city.
“Aakhir kar kya rahi hai sarkaar? Humari betion ko suraksha na de paanay waalo, janta maaf nahi karay gi (After all, what is the government doing? Citizens will never forgive those who have failed to provide security to our daughter,” she warns.
In the video, as she signs off, a male voice takes over: “Chalo haalaat badlein, desh ki sarkaar badlein (Come! Let’s change the situation, let’s change the government of the country).” A sombre face of Narendra Modi then appears with his party’s election symbol.
After three years in office and under fire from people and the Opposition, when PM Modi broke his radio silence on Kathua and Unnao rape cases, he ironically declared, “...a rape is a rape, it should not be politicised. We cannot compare these incidents in numbers for different governments.”
But one of the former BJP minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, Lal Singh continues to politicise Kathua rape case.
In his rallies he talks of party president Amit Shah’s backing and calls for “CBI probe into Kathua rape case” —even after the intervention of Supreme Court.
Even though CBI has now filed charge sheet against BJP lawmaker in UP Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who is accused of raping a 15-year-old in Unnao, police acted only after the ruling party started getting a bad press and public ridicule online. Legal action was initiated only after the girl tried to commit suicide in front of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's house.
On May 8 this year, a government doctor posted at a hospital in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, tendered her resignation, alleging that no FIR had been filed against local BJP activists who abused her and threatened her with rape three months ago.
“I have been repeatedly abused by local BJP leaders’ volunteers at workplace and at Omti Police Station by 10 local gundas,” she said in the resignation letter addressed to the Director, Public Health and Family Welfare.
On May 22, a local BJP leader was arrested for allegedly raping a woman at a lodge in Varanasi. The alleged incident took place when the 32-year-old woman went to meet Kanhaiya Lal Mishra, the former president of the BJP’s Bhadohi district unit.
In Jammu, a BJP legislator Gagan Bhagat’s wife publicly accused her husband of abducting a college student, having an extra-marital affair and then marrying her without obtaining a divorce. The girl’s father, an ex-serviceman, has also accused Bhagat of abducting his daughter from a college in Punjab.
While BJP has clearly failed to fulfil its poll promise of making women secure, it has gone into denial. The last word for the BJP on the subject appears to have been uttered by BJP MLA from Uttar Pradesh’s Bairia district Surendra Narayan Singh, who declared that even Lord Ram wouldn’t be able to put an end to rape.