The Bharatiya Janata Party, which is seen as a favourite to win the Delhi Assembly elections next year, has come under strident attack from the Aam Aadmi Party and Congress in the wake of the sexual assault on a young woman by a call taxi driver in the capital last week.

Both AAP and Congress accused the BJP of not doing enough to make women safe in Delhi. Each carried out a protest against the saffron party on Monday.

AAP leader Ashish Khaitan reminded that Rajnath Singh, now the Union home minister, had in April 2013 put the responsibility of all sexual assaults on the central and state governments.

Background checks

Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president Arvinder Singh Lovely recalled that the United Progressive Alliance government had made it mandatory for cab companies to run background checks on drivers. “Since the BJP has come to power, crimes against women and North Easterners have increased,” he said.

For all three parties, women safety is now the top priority in their election manifestos.

AAP leaders promised to install closed-circuit television cameras around the capital and post marshals in Delhi Transport Corporation buses. The Delhi unit of the BJP said it will prioritise women’s safety over tackling inflation and fixing water and electricity supplies.

Still, that did not stop the parties from using the sexual crime as political ammunition.

Political fuel

“Narendra Modi’s election campaign slogan in Delhi was Bahut hua balatkar, aurato pe atyachar, abki baar Modi sarkar, but the government has not taken a single step to ensure women’s safety in the city,” said Khaitan.

His party colleague Manish Sisodia said the crime is a result of the home ministry’s incompetence at building a safe environment for women. “The government allocated a budget of Rs 100 crore for women’s safety,” Sisodia observed. “Where has the money been used?”

Congress spokesperson Mukhesh Sharma said his government had laid down guidelines for private and radio cabs following the December 16 gang-rape. In 2013, the then Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had issued an order making it compulsory for all cab companies to maintain a database of their drivers, said Lovely, adding that any person contravening the order is liable to be punished under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.