New Delhi: Within two weeks of taking over as Uttarakhand chief minister, Tirath Singh Rawat made news not for his governance but for his controversial comments.
Last Thursday, the chief minister had expressed his shock over seeing young people, especially women, dressed in ripped jeans. Terming it as a strange fashion trend, Rawat asked about the kind of values such people would pass on to their children.
His comments were met with widespread condemnation, and branded as “derogatory”, “distasteful” and misogynistic by members of opposition parties. Rawat later apologised, but several well-known political cartoonists had already taken the opportunity to lampoon him for his opinion on women’s fashion.
आज का कार्टून pic.twitter.com/PGR6iovDZU
— BBC News Hindi (@BBCHindi) March 18, 2021
Tirath Singh’s many hits
The “ripped jeans” remark, though, isn’t an anomaly when it comes to public statements made by Tirath Singh Rawat after he succeeded Trivendra Singh Rawat as Uttarakhand CM on 10 March.
In Nainital’s Ramnagar Sunday, Rawat commented on India’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, stating that the country is “doing better” when compared to others, and singled out the United States of America as an example. Rawat also went on to name the US, instead of the UK, as the country that previously “enslaved us for 200 years and ruled the world”, but “is struggling in current times”.
#WATCH "…As opposed to other countries, India is doing better in terms of handling #COVID19 crisis. America, who enslaved us for 200 years and ruled the world, is struggling in current times," says Uttarakhand CM Tirath Singh Rawat pic.twitter.com/gHa9n33W2O
— ANI (@ANI) March 21, 2021
The new CM had also broadcast his views on poverty in his state. Speaking on the central government’s pandemic ration scheme during the same event in Ramnagar, Rawat asked poor families why they did not have 20 children in order to receive a quintal of food grains, instead of just 10kg for two children.
His statements did not receive the extent of attention and furore that his “ripped jeans” remarks did nor did the news that he tested positive for Covid-19 Monday. Some opposition party members, though, picked up on it. Such as Congress party’s Chhattisgarh in-charge and former Rajya Sabha MP, Panna Lal Punia.
आरएसएस के लिए माता बहनों का काम केवल प्रजनन है। pic.twitter.com/tr63YjEdZH
— P L Punia (@plpunia) March 22, 2021
Rise from BJP youth wing to Uttarakhand CM
Before becoming chief minister, Tirath Singh was a Lok Sabha MP from Garhwal, elected in May 2019.
Considered a “mild-mannered” politician, Rawat was a member of the BJP’s youth wing in Uttar Pradesh before becoming Uttarakhand’s first education minister in November 2000, when the state was carved out of Uttar Pradesh and was called Uttaranchal.
In 2007, he was appointed the state’s BJP unit general secretary and also served as the chairman of the state’s Natural Disaster Management Advisory Committee.
Five years later, his career as an MLA began when he won the Chaubattakhal constituency in the Uttarakhand assembly election. He served a single term and in 2017, was appointed as BJP’s national secretary by Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)