Politics has never been kind in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous and electorally the most crucial state. There have been instances in the past when lawmakers have shamed the voters by their conduct.
They have fought a pitched battle inside the state assembly, using chairs and mikes as missiles to target each other; there has been a deadly attack on a former chief minister inside a guest house; the house of a state Congress chief has been attacked and set ablaze by a rampaging mob.
Another gory chapter was added to this Hall of Shame last week as the state's politics swung between a vocal, seething with rage 'behenji'(sister), who announced that she was a 'devi' (goddess) to her caste and a class VII, school-going 'beti' (daughter) who was targeted for the sins and comments of his politician father.
The Daya Shankar Singh-Mayawati episode saw the state witnessing an unsavoury, never before verbal free-for-all with one side calling a four-time chief minister a prostitute and a hapless, innocent family being called names in public.
All hell broke loose last week as soon as TV channels aired the comments of now former BJP state vice president Daya Shankar Singh accusing the BSP chief of selling tickets at a price and, in a disparaging simile, comparing "pricing" to that of a sex worker who sleeps with the highest bidder.
And so even as Singh pleaded that he was only making a suggestion, the die had been caste and the uproar in the Rajya Sabha was followed by the BJP first removing the leader from all party posts and then expelling him from the party for six years.
The BJP, trying to ride the Dalit goodwill in the aftermath of a slew of pro-Dalit schemes and announcements, has sensed that its Dalit Dream was in for a drubbing by the senseless comment of a leader.But, by now, the BSP had smelt an opportunity to encase on the slur. Without losing any time, it signalled to its cadres that a sacrilege had been committed and that the Dalit diva was immensely hurt. The very next day, the BSP workers laid siege of the state capital. Justified to an extent -- but what unraveled thereafter seems to be the saddest part.
No sooner had senior BSP leaders like state president Raj Achal Rajbhar and former minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui given the word, the crowd went berserk and started shouting: "Daya Shankar ki patni ko pesh karo, beti ko pesh karo" (Bring and hand over to us the wife and daughter of Daya Shankar). Banners reading "Daya Shankar Kutta" (Daya Shankar is a dog) added to the vitriol. Daya Shankar's wife, Swati Singh initially huddled with the family, only to come out later and blast the BSP for the remarks.She said that she has never been in political life despite being long married to Singh and rued the fact that her young and innocent daughter was being dragged into the whole controversy.
"I have no association with my husband's political outlook as I am an extremely private person" she said, trying to back fight tears and informed how her daughter has been traumatised by the developments and has stopped going to school ever after. "Is this what politics has come to," she questioned and dared Mayawati to name a place where she and her daughter could come and confront her.
She is further angered by the fact that Mayawati seems to have made light of the nasty comments made by her party workers and leaders. "She says this happened in anger...tomorrow they will kill someone and justify it by saying it happened in a fit of rage," Swati said.
Rahul Mahajan, son of late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan, who was in Lucknow last week, said the comments by BSP leaders were fit to invoke provisions of Posco, a stringent act that protects children from sexual offenses. Swati and her mother-in-law, after lodging an FIR against Mayawati and her ilk, has now knocked the doors of the Raj Bhavan for justice.
Governor Ram Naik has sought a CD of the demonstration from the police chief and assured justice to the family. The BJP has hit the streets with a new credo: "Beti ke sampan Main, Bhajpa Maidan Main" (The BJP is here to defend our daughters).
State general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak said it was only fit that the party side with Daya Shankar Singh's family. "What Daya said was inappropriate and we have acted against him but no one has the right to abuse his family and we have taken it upon ourselves to protect them," he said.
The BJP, which was pushed to the back-foot, too has smelt a political opportunity in the slur that has been heaped here and there, across the political landscape over the past one week. It has held demonstrations in all districts on the issue and the BSP is now gearing for a "Dalit ki Beti Ke Apman" (A Dalit daughter was insulted) campaign across the state.
But sadly, as the game of one upmanship continues in the state, a studious girl has missed her internal tests at school and the public is left wondering if these are the issues that the 'hakim' (rulers) of the state are supposed to take up.