Abdul Bari Siddiqui was addressing an event in Bihar's Muzaffarpur. (file)
Senior Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui courted controversy today for saying women with lipsticks and bob-cut hairstyles would come forward in the name of the women's reservation bill, which was passed in during a special session of the Parliament earlier this month. Mr Siddiqui was addressing an event in Bihar's Muzaffarpur.
However, he later sought to clarify by saying his party has been supporting the bill "right from the beginning", and he was speaking in 'village language' to make his audience understand. The RJD has, in fact, been one of the strongest critics of the bill in its present form, demanding a quota within quota to include OBC women.
It was an RJD rally with a lot of women villagers present there, Abdul Bari Siddiqui said, adding that he used "typical village language" to make his audience understand the benefits of the new law.
Union minister and BJP leader Kaushal Kishore called the remarks a sign of the RJD leader's "small mentality".
This is a sign of his small mentality. The women who are coming to the Parliament after getting elected are coming after reading the Constitution and laws, and are speaking about the public interest. Just as a car has two wheels, in the same way women and men in the Parliament and Legislative Assembly will work together to make laws of public interest and will help in making this country a developed India," he said.
Mr Siddiqui's remark drew criticism from INDIA bloc ally JMM as well. The party's Rajya Sabha MP Mahua Maji cautioned that such statements can hurt women.
"We are in the 21st century today. One should avoid making such statements which can hurt women. We also want the women from backward classes to come forward. We are also talking about the reservation of SC, ST, and OBC women in the Women's Reservation Bill," she said.
RJD's objection to a women's quota bill without an OBC quota within it is not new. RJD leaders, along with Samajwadi Party MPs and Sharad Yadav, who once headed the JD(U), had tried to disrupt the passage of the bill on several occasions in the past, by storming the well of the house, and even trying to snatch the copy of the bill while it was being introduced.
Such remarks in context of the bill are also not new.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav's father and party patriarch late Mulayam Singh Yadav had at least twice courted controversy for his remarks on how the reservation would benefit only affluent women.
In 2012, when asked about his demand for a quota within the quota, he remarked "...bade ghar ki ladkiya aur mahilayen ko fayda milega... humari gaon ki gareeb mahilayon ko nahin... akarshak nahi hoti...bas itna kahunga... jyada nahi... (The women reservation bill in its present form would only benefit rich and urban women... our poor and rural women are not attractive... will not say beyond this)."
Two years earlier, when the bill was tabled in the Rajya Sabha for approval in March 2010, he said, "The Women's Reservation Bill, if passed in present format, would provoke young men to whistle in parliament."