Renuka Chowdhury is a politician from the state of Andhra Pradesh. She has been a Member of Parliament (MP) since 1986, 4 times in the Rajya Sabha and 2 times in the Lok Sabha. She has been a member of the Union Council of Ministers and several other parliamentary committees. She was even the chief-whip of the Telugu Desam Parliamentary Party in Rajya Sabha. So, by any yardstick she is a senior parliamentarian who is aware of not just the rules and traditions of the legislature but also the minimum decorum expected of the MPs.
But Renuka Chowdhury has also had an upper caste, privileged, existence all her life by virtue of being born to and later being married to uber rich parents and husband. Her ascent to political leadership and parliament was due to being N. T. Rama Rao’s fan girl. She’s probably never had to struggle or fight through ranks to acquire a life of luxury and power. It is therefore not surprising that she relishes humiliating people she thinks are below her in the social or economic hierarchy. Like having her domestic help stand in attention, with folded hands, as she and her family dined at an upscale restaurant.
It is but natural that this snobbish attitude would be that much more severe towards a person who belongs to both a socially discriminated community and an economically impoverished family. Add to the mix that this person, through sheer hard work and perseverance, has made it to a position that is beyond Ms Chowdhury even in her wildest dreams. The result would be pure, unadulterated hatred driven by bigotry. The kind that Ms Chowdhury put on show last week through her sneering and heckling of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a speech in the parliament. Civil, but not one to be cowed down by bullies, the Prime Minister responded with wit and sarcasm.
This kind of obnoxious behavior is not unexpected from a Congress Party politician. Ms Chowdhury’s colleagues have in the past used uncivil language and gestures to deride Mr Modi’s humble origins among the socially and economically deprived sections of the society. They have called have repeatedly called him a chaiwala (and advised him to go back to his original trade), neech, ganguteli and much worse. In comparison Ms Chowdhury’s boisterous mocking was mild and would have normally been forgotten in due course. But what followed was an intense drama of political opportunism and naked hypocrisy.
Immediate response of Ms Chowdhury herself was to wave her victimhood card. She dubbed Modi’s snub of her rowdy behavior to be an affront to all the women in India. And as if on cue, feminists among the left-liberals picked up the baton to peddle their standard bull dung (or camel dung, as they prefer) about patriarchy and misogyny and denial of a woman’s right to laugh out loud. A right to laugh out loud? In the parliament? What next? A woman’s right to laugh out loud in an operating theater? At a funeral? In a court? There is a time and place for every thing. You might enjoy laughing out loud, but you have to be mindful of the setting.
It does not seem to matter to these outraging left-libbers that Chowdhury was behaving like a deranged at a place that is the symbol of democracy in this country. It does not worry them that her conduct was bringing disrepute to other female parliamentarians who do exceptional work for their constituents. Instead, what outraged the leftist cabal was that a man from the “backward” castes had dared to defend himself against the insults dished out by an upper caste woman. That the man had in the past had to hawk tea on railway platforms to make a living was like salt, and chilli, on the wound.
It does not bother them one bit that their martyr for the “right to be rowdy” had justified gang rapes, as health minister of the country asserted that wearing dhoti increases male fertility, accepted bribes from tax evaders and defrauded Adivasis. But what’s unpardonable in their books is that a backward caste, chaiwala (tea seller) had managed to reduce their rich, upper caste fellow traveler to an utter joke. How dare these downmarket fellows have a self-respect, they ask; how dare Modi standup for it, they ask.