The people’s verdict in the state elections of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu has put Mamata Banerjee and J. Jayalalithaa in the chief minister’s chair. With Sheila Dikshit in Delhi and Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh, India will now have four women chief ministers — no mean feat for a country that usually associates politics with the male gender.
Still, the poll triumphs can’t hide that the road to women’s empowerment in India has plenty of bottlenecks. For one, critics of the Women’s Reservation Bill (which if passed will reserve one-third of parliament and assembly seats for women) have ensured the bill has remained on the table in the lower house of parliament.
And despite the examples of Indian President Pratibha Patil and Congress party head Sonia Gandhi, few can deny that the number of women in Indian politics is not commensurate with the corporate world where several Indian women hold sway over multinational companies.
Women’s liberation groups say that discrimination in politics is derived from the deep-seated hypocrisy of Indian culture, one where female deities are worshipped but women still have little say over their lives.
And that even in cases where suitable female candidates are available for national and state elections, the choice has gone in favour of a male candidate.
While the Congress party headed by Gandhi has only one woman chief minister in Dikshit, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party doesn’t have any, despite its vocal support for the Women’s Reservation Bill.
Have things changed since the state polls? Are the election wins for Banerjee and Jayalalithaa a milestone for women’s empowerment in India? Share your views.