Whenever Prime Minister Narendra Modi goes on a foreign tour, some controversy erupts about the action or words he chooses. After the drum-playing controversy in Japan and 'insulting India' ruckus in China, Modi stoked a fresh controversy with his "Despite being a woman" remark on his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina Wajed in Dhaka last weekend. [PM Modi didn't say anything anti-India in China]
The opposition and the social media targetted Modi as a misogynist and connected this story with his marital status to give their allegations a validity. [Sorry PM Modi, your "Scam India" remark in Canada was a political one; it wasn't required]
Modi was not acting in a Saas-Bahu serial that his remark has to be seen as a 'sexist' one
This reaction is overstretched. The Indian prime minister made the remark in Bangladeshi context and little wisdom lies in analysing his statement by Indian middle-class values. Deciding by the standard values of the Indian middle-class today, gender is a crucial but hollow notion. [Modi's remark in Bangladesh raises a storm on Twitter]
We take an offence when a commercial shows a woman boss cooking at home, such is our double standard
It is projected as a significant part of our daily discourse though its relevance has been reduced considerably in daily business. A woman can become a boss but when that boss cooks at home for her husband who is her subordinate in the same office, then all hell breaks loose in this country.
PM Modi's remark in Bangladesh was aimed at an equation-building, not humiliating womenfolk
So no doubt when Modi made a statement that was aimed more at a political equation-building with a neighbouring regime to serve some bigger foreign policy purpose, it hurt the Indian class that had contributed to the rise of Modi in a big way, in a wrong way.
Hasina's struggle in a weak and Islamist democracy is commendable
If Modi said that Hasina took on terrorism despite being a woman in a country where democracy hasn't seen a healthy past, he certainly conveyed a message. It was about glorifying a pro-India leadership to serve India's security concerns, not demeaning a gender.
Modi's advantages become his disadvantages whenever the hollow values of the middle-class discover an uneasiness
Narendra Modi has a number of advantages, which makes him look an unbeatable leader at the moment. One of those advantages is the contribution of the middle-class to his rise. This class has a perception to fit in and Modi has met the criteria perfectly so far. But when a situation arises like it did in Dhaka when Modi makes a 'sexist' remark, the class that has endorsed Modi so well feels betrayed.
The social media, dominated by this very class, raises a storm because it feels its trust has been let down although it has no clear stand on the gender debate.
PM Modi's foreign policy successes also a reason for these meaningless controversies
Another aspect of this unwanted Modi controversies is that his critics are not finding enough ammunition to rattle him.
The PM's foreign trips have so far been successful which leaves the opponent largely helpless. So the left-liberal media or the Congress pounce upon on his words that they think have enough potential to create a controversy. But such strategies are not going to succeed well.
Modi's remark has to be in seen in Bangladesh's context, there lies the trick
When the Congress raises questions over Modi's 'sexist' remarks, a counter-question can be asked: Why a newcomer like Nagma had to undergo humiliation in the public after she joined it ahead of last year's Lok Sabha election?
Recalling Indira Gandhi is no logic, the same woman is referred to as a 'man' in India
Some critics over the social media even mentioned the name of Indira Gandhi, asking how Modi could make his "Despite being a woman" remark when his own country had seen such a powerful woman prime minister.
The rise of Indira Gandhi did not reflect a hard-earned empowerment of a woman. Rather, she was a child of destiny who rose as India's leader after the sudden demise of Lal Bahadur Shastri and, to the utter dismay of Modi's critics, was underestimated by the power centres till she showed all who was the boss.
When India still says that Indira Gandhi was the only man in her cabinet, it certainly revives the ugly gender debate all over again. So calling Modi the guilty doesn't serve our purpose. We don't really know where we stand.
Modi made a strong foreign policy statement, let's understand that
But when Modi says "Despite being a woman" while glorifying a woman leader of a friendly regime in a Muslim country, he makes a strong foreign policy statement.
Sheikh Hasina, like Indira Gandhi, saw her landing in the leader's chair after her father Sheikh Mujibar Rahaman was killed in August 1975 and she survived forty years of turbulent politics and fought against all sort of anti-democratic forces. She even survived two major assassination bids and returned from exile to give her country certain stability.
Despite being a big player in South Asia, why India hasn't succeeded to win much hearts all these years?
For New Delhi, Hasina is the only difference between stability and unrest on the eastern front. So if the Indian prime minister makes a remark that serves India's purpose, let's not spoil the party by stirring the confusion in us.
We, afterall, have not succeeded yet to instill enough confidence into our neighbours DESPITE BEING A BIG BROTHER.