As the Uttar Pradesh panchayat polls got underway on Thursday, the daughter of former Unnao MLA and rape convict Kuldeep Sengar raised questions over the Bharatiya Janata Party cancelling her mother’s ticket. Sangeeta Sengar, an outgoing zila panchayat chairperson, was made a candidate for district panchayat membership from ward no. 22 of Fatehpur Chaurasi area. The party on April 11, however, withdrew the candidature. Now, the couple’s daughter Aishwarya has posted a video on Twitter, criticising the decision.
Kuldeep Sengar was sentenced to life in prison by a Delhi court on December 20, 2019, for raping a 17-year-old girl in Unnao district. After his conviction, Sengar’s membership as an MLA was cancelled. He’s also been suspended from the BJP.
“For the last three years my family has been witnessing injustice,” Aishwarya says in the video. “My mother Sangeeta Sengar has been a member of the Unnao zila panchayat for the past 15 years and has been part of active politics. She has been fulfilling her duties with utmost sincerity and honesty. Probably that is why she was also chosen as zila panchayat chairperson. Today, the qualifications of a woman politician, her experience, her hard work, everything is being ignored.”
The BJP received a wave of criticism after it announced Sangeeta as a candidate for the panchayat polls. Fatehpur Chaurasi comes under Unnao where polling will take place on April 26. Elections are being held in 58,189 village panchayats of UP, in four phases between April 15 and 29, with the counting of votes scheduled for May 2. They are being seen as a crucial test of popularity for the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in the state ahead of assembly polls next year.
“We have provided reservations to women in this country, but when she steps forward, why does it become important who her husband or father is?” Aishwarya, who is a philosophy graduate from Miranda House college and is pursuing a course in law from Delhi University, asks in the video. “Does being a daughter, sister, or wife of anyone make her ineligible? Doesn’t she have an identity of her own? I just want to ask what is the mistake of my mother? How does she become tainted? Don’t my mother and I have any right to live with dignity? I am speaking up today as my conscience will die if I keep silent again this time.”
In a video statement issued on Sunday, Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh announced the withdrawal of Sangeeta’s candidature. “The panchayat elections are going on in Uttar Pradesh and we will win all the elections due to hard work done by our workers. At the same time, reviews are also being done at various stages. In Unnao, ward number 22, Sangeeta Sengar was given the ticket. But now her ticket is being cancelled. She will not be the official candidate of the BJP anymore.”