Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s remarks on birth control and women in the state Assembly seem to have given the BJP fresh ammunition in the run-up to Assembly elections in the Hindi belt as Prime Minister Narendra Modi lashed out at the JDU leader and his I.N.D.I.A bloc partners, including Congress, for their anti-women thinking.
Though Kumar has tendered an apology for his remarks, the BJP appears to have lapped up the opportunity to target the Congress, through is ally JDU, just days before voting in Madhya Pradesh and second-phase voting in Chhattisgarh. While both the Congress and the ruling BJP in MP have tried to present a pro-women face in the election campaign and offered multiple welfare sops targeted at women, the latest controversy may give the BJP to run down the Congress for having allies who allegedly disrespect women.
Ahead of voting on 17 November in Madhya Pradesh for picking a new Assembly, Prime Minister Modi took on the rival party in his speeches at Guna, Morena and Damoh by questioning the silence of I.N.D.I.A bloc partners, including Congress, over Nitish Kumar’s comments.
“A very big leader of the I.N.D.I. alliance spoke in the Assembly in the presence of mothers and sisters in very vulgar language… he did not even feel ashamed while insulting women,” said the Prime Minister.
“It is unfortunate. People who talk about women in such an indecent manner will never be able to do any good to them… The Congress only worries about its sons and daughters,” he said. He also highlighted steps taken by the BJP government to improve the condition of women and highlighted the facility of enhanced loan limit for rural women’s self-help groups.
Political analyst Ritwick Srivastav does not see Nitish Kumar’s birth control remarks having any immediate impact on the outcome of the Assembly elections in the Hindi belt. “The mandate in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh has almost been decided by the voters. The BJP’s attempts to highlight the issue before voting is not really going to change their minds.”
However, the birth control issue is a serious one which, along with the “anti- Sanatan Dharma” controversy sparked by a DMK leader earlier, may assume larger proportions in the run-up to Lok Sabha elections, he said.
Another observer said, “Nitish’s remarks may cause some amount of discomfort within the I.N.D.I.A bloc at the national stage.” While most I.N.D.I.A bloc partners claimed that the matter should end after Nitish Kumar’s apology, an RJD MP in Delhi hinted that the Bihar Chief Minister’s remarks were nothing short of a “self-goal” in the political arena. Nitish Kumar’s birth control remarks are the second controversial comments by him within a week. He had ruffled feathers in the I.N.D.I.A bloc after he criticised the Congress for being too focused on the assembly elections in five states and hindering the coalition momentum. Following this remark, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge had reached out to Bihar Chief Minister and sought to address his concerns.