Are women party workers safe under city BJP's umbrella?

May 23, 2014, 05:44 IST | Priyankka Deshpande

Sunday's incident of a former BJP corporator allegedly misbehaving with corporator Medha Kulkarni at a rally has prompted other women workers of the party to question if they are safe

The recent incident of sitting BJP corporator Medha Kulkarni allegedly being humiliated by the party’s former corporator Murlidhar Mohol at a public procession has prompted women in the party’s city unit to question whether they are safe.

While Kulkarni — who is the corporator from Karve Road — has claimed that Mohol apologised to her over the phone and that the issue has been laid to rest, many within the party are questioning whether the culture of respecting women in the BJP is changing.

Victory march GONE sour: Pune’s new MP Anil Shirole (garlanded), Medha Kulkarni (to his left) and Murlidhar Mohol (black shirt, in front of her) at the victory procession on Sunday where the spat took place. Pic/Mohan Patil

The head of the BJP’s women wing, Mangala Dhere, asked that if Kulkarni — who is a three-time corporator and a BJP state secretary — could face such humiliation, how could other women in the party feel safe?

“The BJP’s women wing is always ahead in solving the issues of women within and outside the party. However, after this particular incident, I have begun to question whether women are safe within the party,” said Dhere.

She added that the women wing’s stand is that Mohol should apologise in public as the incident took place in a public forum. “The party’s image should not take a beating due to a person who misbehaved with his woman colleague,” said Dhere.

BJP Corporator Manjusha Nagpure said there is no doubt that women should get respect but added that the party had nothing to do with the incident and that the conflict between Mohol and Kulkarni was a personal one. “The person who humiliated the woman is also a senior member of the party and such a thing should not have happened,” said Nagpure.

Jyotsna Sardeshpande, who was a corporator from the Model Colony ward from 1993 to 2012, claimed that the party’s culture has changed drastically.

“Earlier, the male members of the party came from an RSS background and were absolutely dedicated to the BJP. Since the last few years, however, due to the policy of reservation coming in, tickets are not allotted on the basis of one’s dedication towards the party or the amount of work one has done,” said Sardeshpande, adding that egos have also played a role in spoiling the party’s culture.

“During my tenure, women had a right to put forth their views and the men in the party also used to consider our views before making any decision,” she added.

Political pundits said that taking decisions keeping electoral gains in mind led to the party compromising with its principles. Political scholar and political science professor Dr Nitin Birmal said, “The party’s idea of overarching (embracing everyone) increased its social base but led to the party compromising on its principles. In the last few years, the BJP has also accepted leaders from other parties with an eye on winning elections. Such conflicts will, therefore, keep happening within the party.”

The incident
Mohol allegedly humiliated Kulkarni at a procession on May 18 in Kothrud to celebrate BJP candidate Anil Shirole’s victory in the Pune Lok Sabha seat. Kulkarni and Mohol allegedly sparred over Shirole visiting a slum in the former’s constituency.

Apology accepted

When mid-day contacted BJP corporator Medha Kulkarni, she claimed that Mohol had apologized over the phone for his misbehavior and the issue was now sorted out. She said that the party would contemplate on such incidents but declined to comment further.

The other side
Former BJP corporator Murlidhar Mohol rubbished claims that he had apologised to Kulkarni. “Yes, there was a verbal spat between us but former party MP Pradip Rawat sorted out the issue before the situation could get out of hand,” Mohol said. He added that he was not at fault alone and Kulkarni had behaved arrogantly as well, so there was no question of apologising. “I didn’t disrespect any woman, it was a mere verbal spat,” claimed Mohol.

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