Cloud 9 Minus One


Sister, Wife, Neta February 16, 2012

This time we have the remarkable distinction of having two women from my apartment building standing for the local elections. The only thing common between them is their gender. One candidate is single, a grassroots activist and a go-getter. The other is a WIFE. That’s all I know about her. Let’s call the former GA (grassroots activist) and the latter OW (only wife). I knew OW as a woman who would do everything her husband wanted her to do. She raised his kids, managed that part of his business for which he had no time, and generally acted as Mrs. Husband in the true sense of the term. Her mister has seen a meteoric rise in his fortune, and I now understand that that is in no small part to his closeness to the politicians at the top. Thus land-grabbing, illegal construction and other activities that are mandatory for anyone to succeed in small and medium enterprise (SME) in India, were taken up with enthusiasm.
GA, on the other hand, is a party loyalist who has worked tirelessly for the small causes that plague any local development. Public transport, water pipelines, hawker zones, none of these issues have escaped GA’s attention. I’ve known her to work on such matters for the last ten years, but it is only now that her talent for organisation and leadership has been recognised and she has been given a ticket. I have no idea who her political mentors are, and I’m not interested in finding out. I don’t much like her political party but she’ll definitely get my vote.
OW, on the other hand, is an unknown entity in the field of politics, and has no business getting a ticket. But perhaps this is the way her party has of rewarding her husband for whatever he has done for his party, none of which looks very legal, helpful or substantial to me, the voter.
In our country, OW is the norm and GA the exception where women politicians are concerned. Starting right from the top, it is the OW’s or their counterparts, the OS’s (only sister), who have a chance of entering politics. Is this a good thing? Unlikely. There’s a lot of talk of female empowerment in governance, but such a rosy picture will emerge only if women rise to the top on their own merit, and not as adjuncts to their male protectors. Then all we get are women like the OW in my neighbourhood, political ingénues who are there only because of their husbands, who know nothing of governance, and perhaps don’t have the brains to learn either. At the end of the day, I think I’ll prefer to cast my vote for Mayawati, not Sonia Gandhi.


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