Thursday, May 14, 2009

The BIG three

What is it about women and the electoral process in India ?

More than 500 seats to be won, and every party trying to cobble together a coalition.

The major parties, putting on a face of bravado. Various regional and state parties, playing hard to get in the face of their being avidly viewed as alliance partners, by any party trying to cobble up the required number of votes to form a coalition government.

There are big political names in the fray, veterans in politics and government, "career" minister types. There are professional doctors, economists, engineers, lawyers, artists, movie actors, cricketers, and even criminals , in the fray. (The trick is to have a lot of court cases, but delay them, so there are no convictions, thus allowing you to contest. ) .

There are even some children of ministers; by definition, they are all supposed to have inherited the
election winning gene; but, I presume they have never heard of epigenetics, a field which investigates how our external environment, makes certain genetic characteristics "inoperative" , leaving the DNA unchanged.

As the election results day approaches, it is not unknown in recent days, for entire sets of elected party members of the smaller and regional parties, to be whisked off by their leaders to resorts and unknown places, so that they remain "occupied" and "unpoached " by the major parties. The papers are full of pictures of new MP's waving from luxury buses and planes, as they are being whisked off for all expenses and more type trips , till the additions and subtractions of government formation are finalised. As a lowly ex-employee who had to provide several documents to justify a Leave-Travel_Concession(LTC) by modes of travel specified by the government, I often wonder who pays for these pleasure jaunts of the MP's. Then I just read that a the country's leading industrial icons had just paid a visit to the big bosses of the incumbent government. Figures.

These are all small fry.

For some reason, national governance in India, has always had a lot to do with women.

The President of India, today is a lady, who was a former Parliamentarian. Its been a long time since the late Indira Gandhi was the PM, and there has been no woman PM since.

There are actually 3 women , whose every utterance and every action will be watched with great care in the next few days.

And who are the most important players in the whole thing?

Madam no 1. Sonia Gandhi.

A great example of how starting at the top of everything in life, works. She came as a bride into the PM's house, when the late Indira Gandhi was PM. Till to-date, she continues to enjoy the government's hospitality, residencewise, securitywise, and establishmentwise. Either she is very smart herself, or has some very smart advisers. I think the former is a more plausible alternative.

She has perfected the art of being the string puller. The puppets change. But they continue to dance as per her directions.
She has also probably perfected the ability to forgive and forget, though one feels the former is done, and the latter is a function of electoral alliances for a possible coalition at the centre. And so she smilingly shares the dais with a person who is the lead supporter of the man who claims to have organized her husband's assassination.

Her son is being projected as the next saviour of the country.
Once again starting at the top. Her daughter helps out, simultaneously declaring her distance from active politics, and gives her considered opinion that her brother, a novice, with no experience, would be an good PM.

Madam no 2. Mayawati.

A great example of starting from the rock bottom. Studied to be a lawyer. Met the right people at the right time, and took the "right" decisions. Very very creditable for someone who grew up in slums, experienced the male dominated society around her, opposed her father when he wanted to marry a second time for a son as his first yielded 3 daughters . Met her mentor is politics, learnt at his feet, and today, after fighting elections with all the associated unpleasant activities, controls a simple majority in her state, and hence a big chunk of possible electoral votes. Her state, the most populous, and backward, has the highest number of electoral votes assigned to it. Knows how to drive a hard bargain, will insist on the top spot, and so far has left all the political parties guessing on what she will do.

Has no qualms about erecting 18 statues to herself, 3 of which were dismantled because they were 3 feet shorter than she wanted. (She herself is 5 feet tall). Inaugurates her own statues, wears diamonds on her birthday with a 53 kg cake signifying the years she has walked the earth, and flies to Delhi the same day, in her own state aircraft, to have another celebration there. The current PM , on a trip to China, takes time out to call and wish her, and so does madam no 1 .

Madam no 3. Jayalalitha.

The south's contribution to the triumvirate that will actually decide, totally independently, who will be India's next PM. Started off as a heart-throb of millions in Tamil cinema, and made a wonderful pair with with the most popular actor there. This man fell out with another man (we will call him K), and started his own party, and dragged Jayalalitha with him. She remained, and has remained completely loyal to him, and heads the party now. Has a sort of following bordering on blind adoration . Her state TamilNadu, has been ruled alternately by her, and the aforementioned K, and both have tried their utmost best to humiliate the other while in power, in the very worst kind of physical way.

While her views about statues are not yet clear, she is great competition for Madam no 2, where massive, larger than life size cutouts are concerned. In actual life size, Madam no 3 is ahead of madam no 2.
Madam no 3, controls a largish chunk of votes, which will do her bidding , if, as they say, the price is right.

As they say, these three ladies hold the key. Madams no 2 and 3 will drive a hard bargain. As they say, there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics.

But yes. I did read, that one of the statue-obsessed-Madams, has a special statue, her own, all organized and ready for installing , in its marble splendour, in Delhi, should the circumstances so indicate.

Stupid me.

I thought times were bad. Jobs were scarce. People were being fired. Salaries were being frozen. Fees were increasing. Infrastructure was crumbling. And affordable housing was becoming scarce.

But I guess all these folks use a different currency for money.......


  1. Are there only women running for this government postition? I have trouble just keeping up with our local politics.

  2. Amber StarThere are several men in the running, but no one can get a majority unless the last two ladies throw in their support in a coalition, so to speak, in the form of the electoral votes they control from their state. That these ladies themselves have primeministerial ambitions makes the situation, for want of a better word, interesting....

  3. Things should be interesting for the next week or so. I can just imagine the horse-trading and forming and breaking of alliances that will take place after the votes are counted!

    You're right about the importance of the Three Ladies, though! :)

  4. I am so sick and tired of all the pollsters and their predictions that i am just turning in bed and praying for the 16th to come up soon !!

    And by the way, i wonder why you have said Ta Ta to Mamta !


  5. Our dance of democracy is on....and what a dance with the Madams vying with each other for attention...
    Well...just another day and we'll know which bunch of clowns will be 'ruling' us for the next 5 years..

  6. Why didn't someone tell Mayawati's father that the man determines the sex of the baby? It might have saved Mayawati from the problem she has with wanting to perpetuate her image in a statue.

    I thought our politics was complicated. Sheesh!

  7. Just think of all the jobs that will be created in making the statues and the cut-outs. They may even turn around the economy!

  8. As regards Kavi's comment, Mamata, though she has weight (not as much as madam 3, but quite a lot, anyway) she is yet to be heavyweight in terms of the weight os seats she can swing. But in the shout-o-meter scales, she is right up there at top.

    Sorry, for butting in with my opinion, but being a Bengali, I have a proprietorial interest and dismay in Mamata.

    Suranga, loved your analyses of the top three 'mares' in the horse-trading game. On a personal level, I like Jayalalitha's jewellery, Sonia's sarees and Mayawati's mane (not really, but did not want to leave her out).

  9. manju isnt it depressing to realize that all principles, programs, fancy policy names , leaders and rules go for a toss when these politicians see the money ?

    kavi I have just made my own prediction . That "All the pollsters will be proved wrong".......

    And somehow, to me, Mamata is not in the same class as Jaya and Maya. Of course, Sonia is supposed to be classless.

    And if sleep evades you as you suffer in torment over the future of the nation, maybe you can think of Deve Gowda....a permanent leader in the legislative Sleepstakes....:-)

    SGD The more things change the more they remain the same ?

    Darlene I dont think genetics is a strong point with any politicians. But i was just thinking what would happen if the US ever had GWB statues everywhere...the mind boggles:-) maybe in keeping with the hitech quality of everything these would be missile sensing and dodging statues....

    Sujatha You may actually be right. And I also think that someone close to Mayawati is probably in the business of statue dismantling. Thats why statues are being made and then dismantled for flimsy reasons. Its a win-win situation, except for the statues.

    Sucharita Wonder what a composite Madam would look like with Jayalalitha's jewellery, Sonia's sarees, and Mayawati's bob.
    The last two have a European connection. Sonia's is genetic. Mayawati is supposed to have been so impressed with France on her maiden visit a few years ago when it was in fashion for CMs to travel there to drum up investment, that she is supposed to have got her cut (hair, that is) , from some wellknown chap (Vidal Sassoon) of Paris. Faithfully trimmed in India by the parlour at the Oberoi in Delhi....

    Maybe Jayalalitha gets her capes designed in Paris or Milan. Who knows.

    Grand , na ? :-)

  10. Whether it is Man or Woman should there be a difference? Infact they should best be described as person. We only wish deep in our heart let it be anyone but let him/her do something serious a little about Roti- Kapda aur Maakan.

  11. While writing this comment, we are already on 16th early morning. A few hours and the results will keep pouring. Amongst the three ladies suggested, I will wish for none. Let them wait for another five years keeping in mind the common good.

  12. That post was so interesting. I remember Indira Gandhi well and have heard of Sonia too. Its great to see the women doing well despite peoples views of each. Who won I wonder, as I guess its over now.

  13. The absolute power these three command is a manifestation of traditional attitudes toward women in this country - either treat them like they are devis or treat them like doormats. As for the women themselves, they are all so capable and smart that could actually be role models if only they weren't so drunk on power.
    I love the pictures - especially of madam 1 and madam 3

  14. Pradip Biswas What you say is so true. It doesnt matter whether its a man or a woman. But it keeps getting highlighted.....maybe by their parties.

    nsiyer I too was waiting for the results to come in. I guess the madam nos 2 and 3 are in for some tough times, statues,capes ,riches and all. Though I often wish the same standards were applied to everyone in power.

    Lilly The results are out this morning, and the ruling party coalition has won and will form the next givernment. So Madam no 1 is the person everyone is praising, and our previous PM will continue again .....

    Usha The results are out, and surprisngly there seems to be another Madam, no 4 Mamata who has done very well for herself, while Madam's 2 and 3 remain entangled in their statues and capes.

  15. At least the statues have a female flavour Suranga. Your nation has been ahead of so many others, investing trust in women leaders.

    We in Australia are rejoicing because we have a female DEPUTY Prime Minister. Athough the picture is gradually changing, there is a long way to go here.

    Women are more abundant on the second tier, but ...