Lucknow: Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav on Monday kicked up a controversy by dubbing the practice of "purdah" (veil) as an "evil tradition", saying it should be scrapped as it hindered progress of women.
"This system did not exist in the distant past. Did Sita or Draupadi ever don a veil? Some circumstances cropped up later because of which women had to use veil," he said at a national convention organised by SP's women wing at the party office here.
"We have to work to remove inferiority complex in women. The 'purdah system' is a wrong tradition and should be eradicated," he said.
"Now women have donned uniform. It is time for you to decide about this veil system...Such evil traditions should end," he said.
The SP chief said socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia had always advocated equal participation of women in all spheres of life.
Yadav said that in the present time women should be given equal opportunity and they should march shoulder to shoulder with men folk.
He regretted that women were the most exploited lot even today and discrimination against them continued inside their homes.
Using the occasion to slam the Centre, Yadav said, "Some persons lie that they have done a lot for women. You can become Prime Minister and get votes through cleverness and shrewdness, but the country cannot be hoodwinked by these tactics."
Yadav accused BJP of "cleverly" using for Lok Sabha poll campaign laptops distributed to students by his party's government in Uttar Pradesh, leading to SP's defeat.
"Laptops distributed to students by the state government were also responsible for SP's defeat in Lok Sabha polls... (Narendra) Modi cleverly used them in election campaign by uploading his speeches and photographs," he said.
He asked women to take a pledge to ensure SP's victory in 250 of the 403 Assembly seats in the 2017 elections. "Then Delhi (Centre) will not be far away," he said.
Referring to the recent meeting of Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad and H D Devegowda at his residence in Delhi, Yadav said, "I want that we all should unite again. Nitish, Lalu... when we all were united, we captured power at the Centre. We left Congress and now BJP has come to power."
On cleanliness campaign launched by the Prime Minister, Yadav said cleanliness cannot take place with broom, it will be possible only by eradicating poverty.
"Modi is talking about toilets in every home...I launched this campaign way back in 1990," he said.
A resolution passed by the party attacked the Centre for price rise and its policy regarding farmers, while another demanded that steps should be taken to counter opposition's propaganda that SP was against women's reservation.
"Communal forces are trying to vitiate the atmosphere of the state due to SP's popularity among masses. Workers should defeat such forces and highlight government's initiatives," the resolution added.
Earlier, Cabinet minister Shivpal Singh Yadav advocated 50 per cent reservation to women in government jobs.
"Women are weak and poor and if they get reservation, it will be very beneficial for them. They will be able to support their families economically", he said.
SP MP Dimple Yadav said women played a key role in bringing the party to power in the state.
"Netaji (Mulayam) has felt the pain and miseries of women and launched a number of welfare schemes for them. The present state government are taking them forward. We are working in areas of malnutrition and education and making women aware of their health. Girl child education should also be emphasised," she added.