The forgetful finance minster: What Arun Jaitley said as opposition leader on rape

Arun Jaitley on Thursday in one breath and one comment trivialised one of the biggest problems plaguing the country right now.

"A law and order problem, one small incident of rape in Delhi advertised world over is enough to cost us millions of dollars in terms of lower tourism," the Union minister said in New Delhi.

 The forgetful finance minster: What Arun Jaitley said as opposition leader on rape

Protests against rape. Reuters

Coming from an Indian politician this is hardly surprising but a man of Jaitley's stature should know better, or so we think.

Let's not forget, this is the same Jaitley who rightly crusaded for the journalist who was sexually harassed by the editor and founder of Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal.

In an interview to NDTV  last year, Jaitley comes to the rescue of the "young lady" and says in so many words that a heinous crime like rape should be fairly tried and appropriate punishment should be meted out to the guilty.

In a Facebook post dated 21 November 2013, Arun Jaitley spoke about the Tejpal case and said this:

"The grievance of the of the citizens' movement after the gang rape of Nirbhaya in Delhi was that sexual assaults are alway under reported. Is this what is happening in this case? Just because the assailant has connections in the Congress party the nation is deprived of the sage advise of P Chidambram, the caustic comments of Kapil Sibal and the exaggerated tweets of Manish Tiwari."

The problem with politicians is that their statements and stances change depending on which party is in power. Perhaps Jaitley's priorities are different now that he is finance minister, as Nirbhaya's father pointed out, “He is seeing the tourism, an honest citizen lost her life, isn't that a loss to the nation?"

When the December 16 gang-rape happened, Jaitley was one of the first to lash out against the Congress government and as a very capable opposition leader made sure that public never forgot how complacent the UPA-led government was towards crimes against women. But looks like the finance minister has failed to follow his own advice.

What is a "small incident" now once inspired Jaitley to tell PTI, "All our heads must hang in shame today that a young girl has fallen a victim to brutal and beastly behaviour. She has been sacrificed to an environment in which women are not safe."

He then added, "We must now introspect as to how we can improve our laws, our judicial processes and most importantly the consciousness of the citizenry which creates a better environment where women can live with dignity."

Perhaps, as his words reveal, Jaitley needs to worry as much about his own consciousness than that of the public.

Jaitley in opposition certainly seemed to be far less blase about sexual violence as a member of the opposition. "When we add disgrace along with punishment for those who commit crimes like rape, we will see an attitude change in society," he said at a discussion, organised by BJP MP Anurag Thakur's Honour Our Women initiative on Nirbhaya's death anniversary.

A little disgrace to those who trivialise rape won't be misplaced either.

Updated Date: Aug 22, 2014 15:33:19 IST