She’s back. Again. Announcing plans to contest elections from Mumbai North West, Rakhi Sawant appeared in an outfit so shiny, so green and so very snug it could have been a kinky segment of her famous Pardesiya music video. Sure, Rakhi once swore love for Narendra Modi — but only the non-afficionados believed that. After all she has also sworn love for other stern faced worthies such as Ramdev Baba and Aamir Khan in the past. We know that actually, she is slyly taking their case on behalf of us lesser but jollier mortals. Sure enough, she has gone and made her own Rashtriya Aam Party thereby becoming a RAP-chick, our own Raapchik Rakhi.
Illustration/ Amit Bandre
Predictably snobbish coverage has followed — “‘Illiterate’ Rakhi’s assets 15 crores.” Why the shock — she’s a working girl yaar! Her opponent Mayank Gandhi of the Aam Aadmi Party dismissed her in these terms: “Rakhi Sawant ko maja maarne wali janta vote degi.” Only those devoted to vulgar fun will vote for Rakhi. (I wouldn’t be so quick to lose that ‘third-class’ vote if I were him). He went on to mock her funny costume, her ‘entertainment’ and her political promiscuity.
Because Rakhi Sawant is a walking bullshit detector — she hit it on the feminist nose with “A man who doesn’t respect women has no authority to contest elections.” As also, “If I am an item girl then Kejriwal is an item boy,” thus pointing us in the direction of all that unspoken stuff behind the spoken stuff, also called double standards.
Why are Arvind Kejriwal’s Etihad Airlines headdress and mismatched socks endearing but Rakhi Sawant’s cabaret Nehru jacket rubbish? Both take the hawa out of political pomposity. We are supposed to shrug off Kumar Vishwas’ racist and sexist speeches but Rakhi’s one liners are grounds for nose-wrinkling? As Rakhi tweeted “rules sab ke liye same hone chahiye, hai na?”
If AAP shows up the cronyism of our system right now — something sorely needed in our public culture — someone like Rakhi Sawant actually casts a similar light on the moralism present in discussions around reform and social activism generally, including AAP’s discourse.
Rakhi’s progress from item girl to TV personality rested on her ability to adroitly and wittily, mock the hypocrisy of gender and class present in Bollywood and all of society. But her lack of progress beyond a point, resulting in her creating bizarrer and more botoxed versions of her initially charming outspoken self are proof of glass ceilings in her industry as well as in the minds of audiences. Those who once rooted for her now find her disgusting — but sorry well-meaning progressives. Democracy does not look like the poster of democracy you’ve got up on your wall.
This is not to say, that people should (or shouldn’t) vote for Rakhi. Just that, in a season when we celebrate the entry of all sorts of people into politics, why object to a working-class girl who has done whatever it took, and in doing that exposed the system just as much as any anti-corruption crusader?
In a world where male candidates weep for women’s safety and honour even as female candidates more privileged then Rakhi get molested during canvassing, it’s not easy to be, as Rakhi’s twitter profile describes her, “a simple girl with big dreams.” Vaise, I’ve got a smallish dream. Since I’m from Mumbai North West, I’m hoping Rakhi Sawant will ring my doorbell and ask for my vote one of these days. Whether or not I give it, I want to say, more power to the big dream!
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com.
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.