A patriarch. A nosy neighbour/friend. A whiny son and a coy daughter. And a thread of misogyny that connects them all. The political campaign video of K Sudhakaran, UDF candidate from Kerala’s Kannur constituency has sparked an outrage and rightly so.
Nothing in the video is as lucid as the palpable – bordering on outrageous – misogyny. Even the premise is a headscratcher. There is obviously some sort of property dispute and the son wants his share. He tells the aging patriarch that he wants it any cost. “She tried talking to them, didn’t she? Nothing came out of it.”
The nosy neighbour interferes, just like in any other family matter in Kerala. “Why did you send the daughter,” to which the patriarch rues, “She couldn’t make them understand nor could she understand them. I did not get anything out of giving her education and making her a teacher. But it is okay. Everybody is allowed one mistake.”
The last dialogue is delivered by the nosy neighbour with a punch: “Send your son. He is a man. He can get things done.”
When the “Vote for Sudhakaran” screen fades in after this, with a smiling face of the leader, you are as confused as every voter in Kannur.
The confusion is well justified. In the 21st century, our beloved Congress candidate is saying educating women is a waste of time. Also, if you are looking to consolidate votes, Kerala, a state with a high gender ratio is the last place where you would want to offend women.
But if you know a bit about the history of Congress leader K Sudhakaran and the LDF candidate in the constituency, you will gain some perspective.
The LDF candidate in the constituency is a woman, PK Sreemathy, popularly known as Sreemathy teacher. The “no point in making her a teacher” dialogue of the aging father in the video is clearly aimed at her, implying that sending a woman to Parliament is useless.
Because along with the video that he posted on his Facebook page, is a cheeky message that translates to “Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.”
So much facepalm because the only ‘cause’ for campaign that Sudhakaran could come up with, unfortunately, is the gender of his rival candidate, tastelessly paired with her occupation. Add to this the fact that he completely overlooked the blanket insult that the video metes out to women in general and you will be cringing for days.
But to know why Sudhakaran could stoop so low and probably never apologise, we need a few blasts from his infamous, sexist past that spans years.
When the Sabarimala issue was simmering in Kerala, there was bit of a divide in the Congress’ stand. While state leaders in Kerala were against the verdict that allowed women to enter the shrine, the leadership at the Centre supported the verdict. The state leaders were criticised for their stand, as subtle as it may have been. But K Sudhakaran, who was then a KPCC working president, couldn’t care less about subtlety. He went ahead and called a menstruating woman “impure,” according to a report in Mathrubhumi.
Going back a bit, in February 2013, K Sudhakaran kicked up a political storm when he said the Suryanelli trafficking victim – who was allegedly raped by 42 men over 40 days in 1996, when she was 16 – had carried out “outright prostitution”.
And then, as recent as January 2019, Sudhakaran was pulled back into the limelight when he made another sexist remark, saying Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s governance showed that “he was worse than a woman”, reported The News Minute.
From the party’s working president to a Lok Sabha ticket, Sudhakaran and his sexism have come a long way.
But at this point, promoting misogyny, even if it is packaged in a high production value video, is still, or maybe more disgusting and extremely unbecoming of a people’s representative contesting in the Lok Sabha polls. K Sudhakaran and the Congress party need to realise that. Soon.
And unlike the Sabarimala issue, the party cannot afford to be indecisive about Sudhakaran and his sexist rants. Because there will be questions.
Like when your manifesto goes on and on about the Women’s Reservation Bill, women empowerment and a range of other liberal ideas, with what logic are you fielding a repeat offender like K Sudhakaran, who clearly, isn’t showing any sign of redemption?
Why are your leaders, including intellectual stars like Shashi Tharoor and strong women at the Centre like Priyanka Gandhi, silent even after the video caused an outrage on social media?
When your leaders endorse this video through silence, what is the relevance of the 47 women candidates that Congress has fielded in the election?
To top all this embarrassment off, the master of cringe, K Sudhakaran has, with a great sense of entitlement, replied to those who are calling him out on social media.
"“I haven’t talked ill of women in this post. I haven’t mentioned Sreemathy. But those comrades and Kairali TV who realised the truth that the post was indeed about Sreemathy and screamed it to the world, are blessed with stupidity, even more than the Sanghis.”" - K Sudhakaran in response to the backlash.
The country rests its case. All that’s left is a verdict from the party leadership. Will Sonia Gandhi, the leader who pulled the party from shambles in the last two terms and readied it for the Centre, speak up against the women-not-fit-for-parliament insinuation?
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