India Insight

Women wield power in election wrangling

May 15, 2009

With the wrangling for allies in earnest ahead of election results due Saturday, women leaders hold an inordinate amount of power in deciding who will form the new Indian government.

Women leaders have always had a role in the rough and tumble of Indian politics, from Sarojini Naidu and Annie Besant in the independence struggle to Indira Gandhi, the second woman in the world to become prime minister.

Women leaders are perhaps at the peak of their influence now, with Gandhi’s political heir regarded the most powerful of them all — indeed, the most powerful political leader in the country.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi is credited with energising the party and leading it to a surprising victory in the 2004 election, and she looks to have the lead this time around too, according to exit polls.

Gandhi, once voted the world’s sixth most powerful woman by Forbes, walked away from the prime minister’s job in 2004, but her influence over party allies and even with the on-again off-again left is unquestionable.

Her influence though, doesn’t extend to Mayawati, the feisty and controversial leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party and chief minister of the potentially swing state of Uttar Pradesh, which sends a whopping 80 seats to the lower house.

Mayawati, hailed as queen of the lower-caste Dalits, is part of the Third Front, and a prime ministerial aspirant whose ambition mirrors her party’s elephant symbol.

Known for her lavish birthday celebrations and love for giant statues of herself, Mayawati’s massive following among lower caste Hindus, tribes and other backward classes is not to be trifled with.

At the other end of the spectrum is J. Jayalalithaa, a convent school-educated high-caste Hindu and leader of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in the potentially swing state of Tamil Nadu.

The former film star, a part of the Third Front, has allied in the past with both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, and could be a kingmaker this time. A win for AIADMK would boost the prospects of the Third Front, and Jayalalithaa, who was once jailed on corruption charges, will be a vital pawnbroker.

As will Mamata Banerjee, leader of Trinamool Congress in left-ruled West Bengal state. With exit polls pointing to an erosion of support for the left, Banerjee — who drove Tata Motors’ Nano car project out of the state — is on a good wicket.

“The outcome of this endgame is linked to women,” political analyst Yogendra Yadav wrote in The Hindu newspaper.

Perhaps their examples will inspire more women to take the plunge into politics; there were only about 550 women candidates against more than 7,500 men candidates. Or are they not quite the role models we seek?

Comments
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The projections for the 2009 Lok Sabha Elections are the UPA & NDA put to gether works out to be 420. Though this is a biased projection Ms Bahen Mayawati, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh have always been saying that UPA & NDA have been cheating the people..Now the voters will no longer afford to be cheated by them.The voters will bring a change like the US did. The entire people’s representatives have decided to upgrade Bahen Mayawati from Chief Minister to Prabuddha Bharatha Mata as Prime Minister despite the biased CEC, Executive, Judiciary and the media.
Mayawati will be PM
This country, famous for the Taj Mahal, is also known as the SC/ST capital. And people here are busy debating if Mayawati – the woman who has risen from the bottom of the social hierarchy to be Uttar Pradesh chief minister – will finally get a shot at the country’s top post.

Before the verdict of the 15th Lok Sabha is finally out, residents no wonder say ‘Mayawati will be offered the prime ministership and history will not repeat itself like in 1977, when Jagjivan Ram, the tallest Scheduled Caste leader then, was sidelined by anti-SC/ST elements who installed Morarji Desai in the post’.

In numerous tea shops across the country , in the SC/ST neighbourhoods of Jagdishpura, Bodla, Gwalior road and elsewhere, the concern for Mayawati, chief of the Bahujan Samaj Party, is all too evident.

Now the entire people want to see Mayawati as the prime minister in general and the SC/ST in particular are unanimous that she fully deserves the post as she is not only an efficient administrator but also the icon of crores of people.
A Buddhist monk said if Mayawati – who has so far gone with the Third Front, in which the Left is a key player – plays her cards intelligently she could emerge as the new rallying point in the current political scenario.

It was a year and a half ago that Mayawati began to be projected as a future prime minister by several political groups, including the Leftists, and she herself has made her ambition all too evident. A section of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders has also demonstrated a soft corner for her.

Analysts here say for the Leftists in India the present moment is a historic opportunity.

They will support Mayawati’s ascendance to the top job.

Mayawati’s name appeared some months ago in the roster of 100 most powerful and influential women in the world, published by a prestigious American journal.

Many compare her meteoric rise with US’ first black President Barack Obama.

A protege of late BSP founder Kanshi Ram, she rose from being a humble teacher to chief minister of a state which is bigger than the Russian federation in population and which sends the largest contingent of parliamentarians to India’s Lok Sabha.

It was Mayawati who, through sheer aggressive posturing and hard bargaining, not only ruled the state thrice but has now presented herself as an indispensable actor in the power game in New Delhi.

Her spectacular rise has meant the end of political invalidity of the SC/STs and their consolidation into a crucial political constituency. They form 15 percent of the Indian electorate.

For the moment at least, Mayawati has filled a vital emotional vacuum and given a new lease of hope to the downtrodden often described as the ‘wretched of the earth’.

 

Jayalalitha is still immature in the politics. Her accompanies are not good and she is not encouraging or respecting the second level leaders in her party. After all she expects everyone in her party to fall on her legs to get the so called “blessings” even though many of them are much much older than her.
She learns only by doing mistakes at heavier prices. Tamilnadu state knows her history of spending millions of tax payers money to lavishly celebrate her so called adopted son’s marriage. She later jailed the same “adopted son” on false charges.
Her policies with Srilankan Tamil issue is also not clear.
Jayalalitha should change her attitude and policies like Sonia Gandhi if she want to survive in the tough Indian/Tamilnadu politics.

Posted by Suresh | Report as abusive
 

I totally agree with you Suresh. Being a well educated politician like Jayalalitha lacks clear policies for her own. Whatever comes on her way, she picks up and not even thinks about the past and future.
If she changes her so called egoism, she will turn out to be well respected leader by all on the current political scenario in Tamil Nadu.

Posted by Sarfa | Report as abusive
 

The main reason for the failure of AIADMK is that she was not at all worried of Sri Lankan Tamils when the issue was burning all over. But during election she suddenly showed interest and started talking in favour of seperate Tamil Ealem, which was not achieved by many for many decades. The general public realised the switching stands and voted accordingly.

 

Dear Tamil Nadu,
Jayalalitha in nothing in the world of politic.She is just a cinema actor with no caliber of bringing in foreign investment into Tamil Nadu.She is more interested in herself than the people.Ask yourself how much money of the tax payers she spend on so call adopted son,that`s your money.Why always choose a cinema personal to be in politic,why not try someone with good education background,knows about bringing in investment and first of all building a good pavement of roads in Chenai.Also build some public toilets around town for foreign tourist and wipe the smell of shits.

Posted by SY | Report as abusive
 

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