Erattayar (Idukki): Former Idukki MP Joyce George found himself the target of widespread outrage after he made a nasty comment against Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. Denounced by his own political bosses, George later retracted his statement and expressed regret over it.
Speaking at a public meeting in Erattayar as part of the ruling Left Democratic Front’s election campaign on Monday, George said that girls better not interact with the Congress leader. “He will only go to women’s colleges. Then he will teach them to twist and twirl. My dear girls, don’t do such things in front of him. He is not married,” George said, in an apparent reference to Gandhi’s visit to a college in Ernakulam where he shared Aikido tips with the students.
The insinuation-filled speech was an instant hit. Others on the dais, including minister M M Mani, were seen relishing the remarks. George, who was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2014 as an independent candidate with support from the LDF, was so pleased with himself that he shared the speech on Facebook Live.
He was soon forced to eat his words. He expressed regrets over his earlier comments while speaking at another campaign meeting at Anakkara in Idukki, which was also attended by CPM politburo member Brinda Karat.
“He should not have made such a remark. He has publicly apologized and retracted his statement,” Karat said and sought to remind the Congress about its state presidents’ outrageous remarks about health minister K K Shailaja.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan himself condemned the sexist comment. “We will oppose Rahul Gandhi politically, not personally,” he said in Kasaragod.
The CPM state secretariat rejected George’s statements. “The CPM opposes the political viewpoints of Rahul Gandhi and the Congress. Personal remarks only serve to divert attention from political criticism. Such comments should not be made by anyone,” read a statement issued by the party forum.
However, minister Mani, who was with George while he made the comment, was unable to see what the brouhaha was about. “Joyce has not said anything against women. I listened to the whole speech. He was only criticizing members of Congress and the UDF. There were no remarks against women.”
CPM acting secretary A Vijayaraghavan sought to downplay the comments. “Is Joyce George such a big leader? I won’t take it seriously. He may have said it in excitement,” said Vijayaraghavan, whose personal attack against a young woman candidate of the Congress during the Lok Sabha election was seen as one of the factors that worked against his front.
Remya Haridas MP said her complaints against VIjayaraghavan were not addressed by the police and the Kerala Women’s Commission. “I would like to know what CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury thinks of the insulting comments against Rahul Gandhi who the party is introducing excitedly in Tamil Nadu and other places.”
Leaders of the UDF have lodged formal complaints against George to the state director general of police and the Kerala Women’s Commission. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala wanted the former MP arrested, while Congress state president Mullappally Ramachandran, who himself landed in trouble with a sexist remark earlier, wanted the chief minister to apologize.
Former chief minister Oommen Chandy said George has insulted the entire Kerala. “He insulted not only the girls and women in general but the entire Kerala society. CPM acting secretary and others have proved their misogyny several times. Even minister Mani, who enjoyed the obscene comments, is notorious for making anti-women statements.”
Mahila Congress activists took out protests marches against George in Thodupuzha, Nedumkandam and Adimali. The Youth League protested in Thodupuzha. Congress Idukki district president Ibrahim Kutty Kallar said the party will lodge a complaint with the election commission.
Youth Congress workers took out a march to George’s house at Thadiyambad, but it was blocked by the police near the house.
The students did not take the comments lying down. Students of St Teresa’s College, Ernakulam said that George had insulted them with his allegations against Rahul Gandhi.
Students from other colleges also lashed out at George. “Joyce George was talking about the bodies of the girls in that college. That comes under the ambit of sexual assault. The government and the police should file a case and get him punished to make a model case. That would boost the self-confidence of girls,” said Arya Lakshmi, a law student.
“How can you see obscenity when someone is training in self-defence? Obscenity exists in the minds of people who think like that. Joyce George should apologise to all women,” said Diya Sibi, a commerce student.