Not seeking everyone’s vote: ‘love jihad’ campaigner has his target right

1f1369df-5e8a-4317-a98b-64c070cf78b2Wallpaper2A four-time Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator and former state minister from communally sensitive Akola takes pride in calling himself the original campaigner against “Love Jihad”.

In all seriousness, Govardhan Sharma, 59, says no interaction should be allowed between Hindu girls and Muslim boys; girls should not be allowed the use of mobile phones and should have a stricter dress code. Worse, Hindu women should not be allowed to go grocery shopping.

Sharma’s efforts have yielded political dividends. Akola is seen as the BJP’s safest seat in the district. Dressed in a white vest and a lungi, Sharma speaks softly and slowly about “Love Jihad”, a term coined by right-wing groups to denote marriage between Hindu girls and Muslim boys and alleged subsequent conversion of the girl. His conversations and speeches are peppered with references to people of the two religions as ‘us’ and ‘them.

“It’s only now that the media and the world have woken up to this. I have been raising this issue for years now and have ‘rescued’ thousands of our girls from their clutches,” Sharma told Hindustan Times at his residence.

According to Sharma, the ‘fault’ lies with Hindu women. “Their women are careful about only revealing their eyes to men,” says Sharma.

Sharma is soon joined by members of the local Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). “I consider myself a VHP candidate,” says Sharma, as he prepares to fight from the Akola West constituency for a fifth term on a BJP ticket. Sharma and the other VHP members list out instances where Hindu women have been ‘trapped’.

Are there any official complaints? One of the VHP members says, “Many a time, we rescue the women and end the matter. At times when women do go to lodge complaints, the cops refuse to note them down.”



BJP candidate Govardhan Sharma addresses a public meeting at Sinddhi Camp in Akola-Vidharbha.(Anshuman Poyrekar/HT photo)