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  Whistling in the dark
  Mulayam's mindless sexism  
  MULAYAM SINGH could not have asserted his machismo more forcefully. Here were some of his loyal lieutenants, attempting damage control of a devious kind after his comments in a television interview on the Women's Reservation Bill. The Samajwadi Party (SP) leader has spurned such assistance and reiterated his opposition to the measure in an even more reprehensible manner. In the process, the one-time Defence Minister of the country has presented afresh the case for protection of the democratic right of women due to parliamentary and legislative representation.

Mulayam's clinching argument in the interview against the quota Bill, as reported repeatedly, was the dreadful scenario he envisaged as its consequence. The measure, he prophesied, will flood Parliament with socialite women from the elite strata, provoking wolf whistles from young men. He might have momentarily appeared isolated amidst the all-round outrage at the remark. Soon, however, his party defenders responded with the claim that his "words were twisted".

Senior SP leader and leader of the opposition in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council Ahmed Hasan twisted Mulayam's words. His chief, said Hasan, had only said that one-third reservation of parliamentary seats for women would generate such unemployment that young men could do nothing but roam the streets, whistling in their woe. Mulayam, however, has been quick to reject the creative interpretation and clarify that he meant his original message.

He says that he was only trying to "provoke a debate among the peasants and the poor". It was bad enough for the president of a party with Jaya Prada, Jaya Bachchan and Dimple Yadav among its leaders to indulge in bashing of "rich socialites". It is worse for a self-proclaimed socialist to compound his insult to the female of the species with an affront to the farmers.

Mulayam's sexist stand is all the more indefensible for the political heritage he claims. Rammanohar Lohia, from whom Mulayam's social stream draws inspiration, stood clearly for 60 per cent reservation of legislative seats for women, the minorities and lower classes.

Is the Samajwadi supremo, isolated in the political spectrum on the issue along with the Rashtriya Janata Dal's Lalu Prasad, simply whistling in the dark?
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