The campaigning in Karnataka for the upcoming Assembly elections is heating up, and looks like nothing is above politics. An advertisement campaign run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state once again appears to be contradicting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statements condemning the politicisation of rapes.
The party took out full page ads in several major newspapers in the state on Tuesday including Udayavani and Vijayavani, and English daily The Hindu. Featuring images of PM Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, the ad read: “Modi Sarkara punishes child rapists with death penalty. Siddha Sarkara still asleep.”
The ad also asked readers to “Vote for Change, Vote for BJP”, and had an image of the party’s Chief Ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa.
BJP’s advertisement clearly referred to the latest ordinance passed by the Centre – introducing death penalty for men raping a girl child under the age of 12. The ordinance was passed on April 21, and came in the wake of two rape cases that shocked the country, in Kathua and in Unnao.
While the ordinance itself has been welcomed by some and criticised by others, questions are now being raised over whether the BJP can use this ordinance, passed during the Model Code of Conduct period, to campaign for elections.
The Model Code of Conduct says:
“The party in power whether at the Centre or in the State or States concerned, shall ensure that no cause is given for any complaint that it has used its official position for the purposes of its election campaign…”
Reacting to this, the Congress has filed a complaint with the Additional Electoral Officer, KG Jagadeesh on Tuesday afternoon calling it a ‘violation of code of conduct by BJP by issuing advertisements containing fake news in English and Kannada daily newspapers”.
Speaking to TNM, KC Jagadeesh said, “We cannot comment on individual instances. A decision will be taken by the Election Commission of India as it is a national issue.”
Further, critics point out that it’s not just Karnataka – most states in the country do not have separate legislations punishing child rapists with death penalty. Only Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana – all ruled by BJP – had brought in such a legislation before the Centre’s Ordinance last week.
The advertisement, once again, politicised rape – something that Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned when he was abroad.
On April 19, speaking at the 'Bharat ki Baat, Sabke Saath' programme that was held at the iconic Central Hall Westminster in London, the PM reacting to the incidents of rape in India had said, “A rape is a rape. How can we tolerate this exploitation of our daughters? But can we compare the number of rapes in different governments? We can’t say there were this many rapes in our government and that many in yours. There cannot be a worse way to deal with this issue.”
But soon after his statements condemning the politicization of rape, advertisements published by the BJP in in poll-bound Karnataka, told a different story altogether.
An advertisement that appeared in leading newspapers in Karnataka on April 20 also took aim at the state government. It read, “Women and children gripped by anxiety and fear. Siddha Sarkara is in deep slumber.”
The advertisement also detailed incidents in the state and urged that “a government that can take strict action to ensure safety of women and children is the need of the hour.”
Another advertisement that appeared in the Deccan Chronicle on the same day, carried the following text in bold: “Rapes, Murders & Lawlessness, An Insensitive Karnataka Government.”
Similar advertisements by the BJP carrying the tagline “Vote for BJP, Vote for change” have regularly appeared in prominent newspapers in Karnataka, ahead of the state assembly elections that will happen on May 12, 2018.