By Sushil Kutty
Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati called it “sheer drama”, nothing else. “Why did the UPA government not reserve 33 per cent seats in parliament for women when it was in power at the Centre,” asked ‘behan Mayawati’, one woman to another, honest to honest. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra didn’t think there was reason for her to reply. The Congress leader in-charge of Uttar Pradesh and party general secretary had just announced that 40 percent of Congress tickets for the 2022 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections would go to women.
None of the opposition parties liked it. ‘How could she?’ must have been the common question. One newspaper said that “the Congress is gambling big”. Right. Maybe the Congress also believes that the party has an ace up its sleeve – Priyanka Gandhi Vadra! Forty percent of tickets to women will make the so-called weaker gender “equal partners in power.”
Fact is, men are okay with an occasional woman at the helm. But tell them to make women equal partners in power and they will lose their shirt. Equality to enter the Sabarimala temple is alright, but equality in assemblies and Parliament is a strict ‘no, no’. Nobody has the right to throw a spanner in the holiest of holy male domains. ‘How dare she?’ must have been the second question.
Pledging 40 percent tickets in the UP assembly elections to women is huge with huge implications. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has set the cat among the pigeons. On the surface there is a deceptive calm, but deep down, in the guts, there’s uneasiness. ‘Do we have to follow suit?’ must have been the third question. In their puny hearts, the non-Congress parties know that they will have to act women-friendly, if not to the fullest 40 percent, at least in the margins of that percentage. otherwise they might lose some if not all.
Ask the long suffering women electorate and they will laugh or outrage. Not that the Congress will escape criticism. Like Mayawati, lakhs of women will also declare Priyanka’s announcement laughable – drama, a one-act play! From now on till when the Congress starts distributing tickets for the UP elections, it’ll be “now, walk the talk.”
Priyanka’s pledge made in Lucknow was greeted with bursts of crackers. At this time of the year crackers spell “welcome” and the decision to empower women is welcome with double emphasis. A number of Congress women stand to win party tickets including a couple of spokeswomen who daily hold forth on ‘Priyanka’s Progress’.
‘Ladki hoon, lad sakti hoon’ Priyanka said and it’s the slogan for the 40 percent who will get party tickets to fight the UP Assembly elections. Fact is, the Congress in UP under Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is ready to gamble with the slogan. Win or lose, it’s a watershed moment in women empowerment.
More women are expected to join politics following this decision. There’s a feeling that women candidates will hold their own. After all, half the electorate is women. And they’ll vote in droves if honest women are given tickets. Who knows this ‘Priyanka experiment’ might succeed and then there’ll be ‘copycat’ experiments in all the states.
The Congress in UP has taken a pioneering decision. It might even go for a toss, but for it to have a lasting effect, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra must not fail in her quest to change the gender make-up of the Uttar Pradesh assembly. Failure will sound the death knell of women’s empowerment in politics. No political party will ever thereafter recommend it again.
Making the announcement in Lucknow, Priyanka said the decision would empower every woman including the two women cops who accosted her in Sitapur on her way to Lakhimpur-Kheri. “It was pitch dark then, and the women constables were up till 4 am, this decision is for them as well.”
It’s a good move, but the BJP says the Congress has “never worked for women” and that this is another election gimmick. UP BJP leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi said she was “humiliated” when she was in the Congress, but she forgot to mention that getting a ticket for herself was never a problem even when Rita Bahuguna Joshi was in the Congress.
For the Bharatiya Janata Party, women empowerment is “gas ka chula and gas cylinder”, toilet in the courtyard and goodbye to triple talaq. Of course, Smriti Irani and Nirmala Sitharaman will not only get party tickets, they will also be made ministers! The two of them are equal to 40 percent. (IPA Service)