Lok Satta candidates adopt Hindutva, anti-women, casteist positions

The Lok Satta Party, which is set to make its debut in the Karnataka Assembly elections, promising “clean” politics, has run into rough weather already with three of its candidates taking public positions that appear to run counter to the party’s stated ideological vision and standpoint.

Phanisai Bhardwaj, the party’s candidate for Bangalore South Assembly constituency, has said on his Facebook page: “Apolish [abolish] reservation for particular community in education as well as jobs.” The comment was on a digitally altered photograph posted by him showing two lanes of a road. One is clogged with traffic, while the other is completely free from traffic. The empty road has one man, identified as “SC,ST” walking past stationary vehicles on the other road. The road clogged with traffic is titled “general”.

Mr. Bhardwaj is also part of a group called Centre for Men’s Rights, which believes that men are the oppressed sex and fights against Section 498 (a) of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises cruelty to a woman by her husband or his relatives.

Rupa Rani, Lok Satta candidate for Rajajinagar Assembly constituency in Bangalore, has shared a photograph titled ‘Save the Holy Cow’ posted by her Facebook friend “Saffron”. The photograph shows the seer of the Ramchandrapura Math and Sangh Parivar ideologue Sri Raghaveshwara Bharathi petting a cow.

Meenakshi Bharath, party candidate for Malleswaram, has posted a photograph showing Muslim men showering rose petals on a troop of RSS workers clad in khaki shorts and wielding lathis (batons).

She also posted Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on her Facebook profile. Party sources, who wished anonymity, said Ms. Bharath’s repeated public endorsement of leaders such as Mr. Modi has caused them embarrassment in the past as well.

Lok Satta founder Jayprakash Narayan said Mr. Bhardwaj’s position on women was “unacceptable”. He said: “He is not talking Lok Satta language or ideology.” Mr. Bhardwaj was asked to withdraw his nomination soon after.

On Ms. Rani’s post, Mr. Narayan said there are already laws against cow slaughter across the country. “But if you are going make anti-cow slaughter and vegetarianism into cultural symbols, then it is wrong,” he said.

Referring to Ms. Bharath’s actions, he said: “I don’t think Mr. Modi is an untouchable. The Lok Satta Party does neither embrace any political party or individual nor does it see them as untouchables.”

Party spokesperson Anand Yadwad said Ms. Rani and Ms. Bharath had been asked to remove the offensive posts. “We have told them they cannot take such anti-party stands,” he said.

A campaign

Elsewhere on the blogsphere, online activists are posting and re-posting the Facebook posts of the three Lok Satta candidates as part of a campaign titled “Expose Lok Satta Party — Anti-Women, Anti- SC/ST, shaking hands with Hindutva forces”.

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, who started the online campaign, said: “What kind of scrutiny does the party put its candidates through?” Activist Manohar Elavarathi, who first discovered these controversial Facebook posts, said: “Progressive political movements are built from bottom up by accounting for inequalities arising out of caste, class, gender and communalism. I don’t know how a middle-class oriented party like the Lok Satta can achieve that.”