"If Sonia Gandhi is a dynastic trophy, Sushma Swaraj, the recently appointed CM of Delhi, is being projected as the icon of 'ordinary' Hindu womanhood. The blazing sindoor, the dominating tika, the severely-wrapped coloured cotton sari and nose-ring all proclaim her as a modern-day Sita—upholder of the RSS ideals of family, nation and the Hindu character," observed Sagarika Ghose in a 1998 profile.
Decades later, Sushma Swaraj appears less Sitaji and more Mataji, the same bindi, sindoor et al exuding a familiar matronliness. The neighbourhood aunty who is likely to accost you at the local market to enquire at length about your family's well-being. That's until she opens her mouth and rudely shatters the mirage of moon-faced benevolence.
"If his (Hemraj's) head could not be brought back (from Pakistan), we should get at least 10 heads from there side," she thundered in Red Queen-esque rage at the recent LoC killings. The blood-curdling language is the latest example of what has become a Swaraj trademark: intemperate, over-the-top rhetoric. The most famous being her vow to shave her head and eat peanuts if that dastardly Italian woman dared take the Prime Minister's gaddi.
All things, great and small, can get our lady of the BJP worked up, be it the McAloo burger or the Delhi gang-rape. "Accused in such cases should be hanged," she told Parliament, her righteous fury matched only by her overwrought -- and misplaced -- pity for the victim. "When a woman gets murdered, she gets killed once. But when she gets raped, she dies again and again," she declaimed in true Hindi movie style, "If this girl survives, she will be a zinda laash (living dead)."
The only thing missing was a sobbing AK Hangal in the background.
The sole reason Auntyji didn't call for chemical castration is that it would require invoking that great unmentionable, as in the penis. Swaraj's aversion to genitalia dates back to her stint as an Information & Broadcasting minister in 2003 when she canceled Doordarshan's AIDS awareness ads aimed at rural viewers because of their unsavoury references to -- Hai Ram!-- condoms.
This overweening concern for family-friendly TV didn't endear her to health experts. The cranky AIIMS professor AB Dey grumbled, "The percentage of transmissions through the sexual route prove we can't be pious about sex. Having multiple sexual partners is a genetic urge. It can't be controlled by singing bhajans."
We don't know about her views on sex and bhajans, but Mrs Swaraj most certainly believes in the super-powers of "patriotic songs" to combat corruption. So much so that she danced on Gandhijis grave during Anna's one-day fast, drawing criticism from party-pooping UPA types.
"This was around two in the morning. I stepped in for a brief moment to boost the morale of our Party workers." explained a theatrically injured Swaraj, "In keeping with this tradition, I was asked to join in when party workers were singing and dancing to the song 'Ye desh he veer jawano ka'"
Who among us can resist shaking a leg to that catchy number? (Other than sickular liberals who hate their country, of course.)
Like all those tough-but-tender Matajis on TV, Sushmaji is truly beloved by all -- including the very bad boys she's so eager to battle. For example, the Bellary brothers who call her their "godmother" -- the very same one who religiously visited Bellary every year to bestow her favours. Or the underworld kingpin Romesh Sharma who told reporters, "I am surprised why she doesn't remember having met me. I know her and she is a very nice lady."
No one, however, remembers or cares. She remains forever that nice BJP lady, never mind the blood-curdling rhetoric, needless drama, and misbegotten 'godsons'. Where poor Narendra Modi battles ceaseless accusations of corruption, evoking howls of outrage when he says one word out of line, Sushma remains immune. Shielded by by her teflon bharatiya nari bindi -- and a big old smear of sindoor (just in case the mega-dot fails to do the job) -- she doesn't have to endure an agnipariksha to prove her virtue. This Mataji is certainly no Sita.
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