SUDIPTO MONDAL, The Hindu, April20, 2013

One candidate asked to withdraw nomination, two others reprimanded

The Loksatta Party, which is set to make its debut in the Karnataka Assembly elections promising “clean” politics, has run into trouble with three of its candidates taking positions that appear to run counter to its stated ideological vision and standpoint.

Phanisai Bhardwaj, candidate in Bangalore South, has said on his facebook page: “Apolish [abolish] reservation for particular community in education as well as jobs.” The comment was on a digitally altered photograph posted by him showing two lanes of a road. One is clogged with traffic, while the other is completely free. The empty road has one man, identified as “SC/ST” walking past stationary vehicles on the other road. The road clogged with traffic is titled “general.”

Mr. Bhardwaj is also part of a group, ‘Centre for Men’s Rights,’ which believes that men are the oppressed sex and fights against Section 498 (a) of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises cruelty to a woman by her husband or his relatives.

Rupa Rani, candidate in Rajajinagar here, has shared a photograph titled “Save the Holy Cow” posted by her facebook friend “Saffron.” The photograph shows the seer of the Ramchandrapura Math and Sangh Parivar ideologue Raghaveshwara Bharathi petting a cow.

Meenakshi Bharath, candidate in Malleshwaram, has posted a photograph showing Muslim men showering rose petals on a troop of RSS workers clad in khaki knickers and wielding lathis. She posted Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s speech also on her facebook profile.

Party sources, who wished anonymity, said Ms. Bharath’s repeated public endorsement of leaders such as Modi caused embarrassment to the Loksatta in the past as well.

Founder Jayprakash Narayan said Mr. Bhardwaj’s position on women was “unacceptable.” He said: “He is not talking Loksatta language or ideology.” He was asked to withdraw his nomination soon after.

On Ms. Rani’s post, Mr. Narayan said there were already laws against cow slaughter across the country. “But if you are going to make anti-cow slaughter and vegetarianism cultural symbols, then it is wrong,”

On Ms. Bharath, he said: “I don’t think Mr. Modi is an untouchable. The Loksatta Party doesn’t embrace any political party or individual, nor does it see them as untouchables.”

Party spokesperson Anand Yadwad said Ms. Rani and Ms. Bharath were asked to remove the offensive posts. “We have told them that they cannot take such anti-party stand.”

Elsewhere on the blogsphere, online activists are posting and re-posting the Facebook posts of the three Loksatta candidates as part of a campaign titled “Expose Loksatta Party — Anti-Women, Anti- SC/ST, shaking hands with Hindutva forces.”

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, who started the online campaign, said: “What kind of scrutiny does the party put its candidates through?” Activist Manohar Elavarathi, who first discovered these controversial Facebook posts, said: “Progressive political movements are built from the bottom up by accounting for inequalities arising out of caste, class, gender and communalism. I don’t know how a middle-class oriented party like the Loksatta can achieve that.”