Congress leader K Sudhakaran, the UDF candidate from Kannur, found himself fending off some unwanted attention after a campaign video irked netizens for ostensibly portraying women in bad light.
Netizens accused the video, shared by Sudhakaran’s official Facebook page, of sending a message that educating women is pointless and that they can never do a man’s job.
The ad seems to have been an attempt to take a dig at the sitting MP from Kannur and LDF candidate PK Sreemathi, and an apparent attempt to paint her as totally inept at securing the rights of her constituents from the central government.
It tries to take a dig at the MP, a teacher by profession, by narrating the tale of an inept girl, who, despite being a teacher, turns out to be a “complete failure” at securing her family’s rights.
The video shows the girl’s father discussing his daughter’s failure with his friend when his angry son walks in and accuses the father of sending his sister to do a man’s job, and stomps off.
The father then tells his friend that his daughter has turned out to be a nincompoop and that she was incapable of understanding the issue or communicating it effectively to win the family’s rights.
“It was a waste to have educated her and made her a teacher,” the father rues.
The friend then suggests that the father should have sent the son.
“He is a true man. When he sets forth, he comes back only after achieving his goal!”
The video is supposed to be an attempt to paint Sudhakaran as a go-getter man and Sreemathi as an educated, but meek and incompetent woman.
The film ends when the father is convinced by his friend’s argument. At this point, the daughter too smiles happily, apparently satisfied that a ‘true man’ has stepped up to do what she could not.
The video comes with a disclaimer that it is not related to any person dead or alive “or anyone who has made speeches in parliament”.
The film is based on the videos of some of PK Sreemathi’s parliamentary speeches, which have gone viral in recent years. These videos generated much mirth online, with social media users taking digs at her ‘unconventional’ style of handling the English language.
However, the latest attempt to take off from the videos seems to have proven counterproductive, with the overwhelming majority of commenters leaving negative comments and slamming Sudhakaran and his associates for their ‘sexist’ and ‘retrograde’ attitude towards women.
“Women should not be educated, should not contest in elections and should not enter Sabarimala shrine. Does the Congress party have anything more to say”, an angry Facebook user remarked.
Netizens also said that it was shameful that it came from a member whose party has produced powerful women leaders like Indira Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi.
Another commenter called Sudhakaran as a ‘misogynist’ and said that the women voters of Kannur will give a befitting reply to him in the elections.
“Isn’t there anyone to tell the people associated with the making of this video to maintain self-control till April 23, so that the margin of loss can be reduced”, another Facebook comment read.
Many social media users also urged the Congress party to take action against Sudhakaran.
Political opponents, especially from CPI(M), did not miss the opportunity to put Sudhakaran in his place.
CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Subhasini Ali slammed Sudhakaran and said that the ad portrayed women in bad light.
“The video is extremely anti-women and insults the whole community of women, including those in the Congress. Sudhakaran has forgotten that his own party has produced powerful women leaders”, she said while participating in a programme in Kochi.
CPI(M) Kannur Secretary MV Jayarajan lashed out at Sudhakaran and said that everyone involved in the making of the ad should be brought before the law.
State Health Minister KK Shailaja also criticised Sudhakaran for the campaign ad and said that he has failed to grasp the true sense of Kerala’s social and democratic values which gives women their due.
Taking to Facebook, she wrote, “The ad campaign is anti-women. In this age, where women are about to set foot in Mars, such sexist comments are totally unacceptable”.
She urged the Election Commission to take action against Sudhakaran.
Meanwhile, the state Women’s Commission has registered a suo motu case against Sudhakaran on the basis of various media reports.
Reacting to the controversy, Sudhakaran said the ad was not targeted against all women, but only one woman.
“It is not anti-women to remark that one woman (referring to PK Sreemathi) lacks skills”, said Sudhakaran. He added that he is ready to face the law.
Sudhakaran is no stranger to similar controversies.
Speaking to party workers in Kasaragod in January, Sudhakaran said that the Chief Minister had failed to act as a man when it came to running his office and his tenure was worse than that of women.
Later, Sudhakaran apologised for his remarks and said he was ‘misquoted’.
In November last year, his comments that women of menstrual age would be blocked if they attempted to enter the Sabarimala shrine during the mandala puja also sparked a row.
Sudhakaran also drew ire from all fronts for his remarks on the notorious Suryanelli rape case. He had called the survivor a ‘prostitute’.
The campaign video might prove to be a major stumbling block to Sudhakaran and UDF who is looking to reverse its fortunes in Kannur. He had faced defeat at the hands of PK Sreemathi, known popularly as Sreemathi teacher, by a margin of 6,500 votes in the 2014 general elections.