A+| A| A-

Politics of Contempt?

Members of the BJP have been losing their grip on the 2019 election as well as on their tongues.


The diatribe expressed by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of legislative assembly (MLA) against the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief has beaten all previous records of the political use of contemptuous language. The foul language used by the people’s representative in question is ­extraordinarily devastating as it seeks to push a person—a woman, a man and a person belonging to the third gender—beyond any recognisable limits of humanity. The MLA and her party leaders did express regret and tender apologies to the BSP chief, but more as a perfunctory, formality than out of genuine regret. However, such calculated gestures by a moral offender are seldom adequate for repairing the damage done to any self-respecting personality, ­including the BSP chief. The use of ­offensive words publicly produces a long-lasting impact. Such language, through anti-social gossip, continues to remain in circulation long after the actual expression of the tirade, thanks to the strong presence of caste and patriarchal consciousness that feeds into such gossip. Moreover, such calculated gestures of regret and apologies do not go too far, except in simply excoriating rather than destroying completely the vice of contempt that is driven deep into the caste and patriarchal consciousness. The questions that we need to raise are: Why the contempt against a particular person? What is the nature of this contempt? And, what moral implication does it have for a person who holds such contempt?

The contempt that mediates through such diatribes has to be understood primarily in the context of the political challenge of the electoral alliance between the BSP and the Samajwadi Party (SP), which seems to have been perceived by the members of the BJP as formidable. Ironically, the expression of offensive language is an acknowledgement of such a challenge. Interestingly, singling out the BSP chief for such an assault doubly confirms this fear of opposition. Of all the leaders from the opposition, it is the BSP chief who has been at the receiving end of such offensive language. There are two factors that can explain this “special treatment” meted out to her. First, the BJP legislator in question has chosen as the subject of her diatribe a person who has decided to firm up the alliance without succumbing to being targeted by the ruling party. Second, the challenge posed by a person from a lower caste, and that too from a woman, is not bearable for this BJP legislator. The fear of such a woman is, then, at the core of her diatribe.

To read the full text Login

Get instant access

New 3 Month Subscription
to Digital Archives at

₹826for India

$50for overseas users

Updated On : 29th Jan, 2019


(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Economic planning requires well preparedness to meet the challenge of a better growth rate.

Ownership of banks by industrial houses will cost the economy dearly.

Using ordinance to protect freedom of expression from foul speech may result in damaging decent communication.

Only an empowered regulator can help boost production and cut coal imports.

Biden’s policy of the “return to the normal” would be inadequate to decisively defeat Trumpism.

*/ */

Only a generous award by the Fifteenth Finance Commission can restore fiscal balance.

*/ */

The assessment of the new military alliance should be informed by its implications for Indian armed forces.

The fiscal stimulus is too little to have any major impact on the economy.

The new alliance is reconfigured around the prospect of democratic politics, but its realisation may face challenges.

A damning critique does not allow India to remain self-complacent on the economic and health fronts.


Back to Top