An under-appreciated fact about Indian politics is the influence of women in it. This is extraordinary, especially when we consider the oppression of women in the subcontinent for ages. India’s two major religions – Hinduism and Islam – have in the past been practically hostile to the emancipation of women, when compared to the western cultures. Yet, women power in Indian politics in unmatched. If it has done any good to the country is altogether a different question and must be pondered.
We have to agree on the fact that, except maybe Mamata Banerjee, most powerful Indian women leaders had their paths paved by male patrons. Mayawati and Jayalalitha were the protegees of Kanshi Ram and MGR, respectively. Both Sushma Swaraj and Sonia Gandhi had their husbands in active politics. Although, we must also acknowledge that all these ladies have faced, and overcome, strong male opponents, even without the support of their political gurus. Sonia Gandhi, despite being a non-Indian by birth, drove Congress in two successive electoral victories, thereby becoming the longest-serving president of Congress. Mayawati rose to power, despite being a dalit, in one of the states most subject to caste discrimination. Jayalalitha, inspite of being a Brahmin, mingled into the anti-Brahminist political climate of Tamil Nadu. Mamata’s journey was probably the toughest of all, as she came out of the CPI(M) dominated state and win elections.
But leave alone their womanhood, have even their political leadership helped the country at all? While Sonia Gandhi has promoted a culture of flattery, Mayawati and Jayalalitha have pronounced autocracy and corruption in their states. While Sushma’s dependence on the Bellary mining mafia puts her personal and political integrity under serious question, Mamata’s mood swings and power-lust has made her one of the most ridiculed politician of today. Today, we have reached a stage when none of these ladies can be trusted with political leadership. With these women rising to power and failing to meet their expectations, not just India but the world laid on their shoulders, has the country not lost a great opportunity?