Thursday, October 28, 2010

Women and politics in God’s own country

The UDF is euphoric, the LDF circumspect, the BJP satisfied with a little and the independents and rebels are repeating “didn’t I tell you so.” The results of the local body elections in Kerala were announced on October 27 and the winners are lining up to govern God’s own country. The uniqueness of this election is that God’s own country will be governed by God’s own women as well this time. A clear 50% of the seats were reserved for women and saw all women contests in them.

So now that we have women leaders in our society it is time we analyse whether they are going to make a difference or not. If one talks to the locals in any area in Kerala, they are doubtful of whether women will be able to make a difference in the political scene in Kerala. The reasons they give are 1. The women candidates are proxies of men who happen to be their husbands or fathers, 2. The husbands will run the show for five years and 3. These women are not well versed in the nitty-gritty’s of local and regional politics. The first two points one must note are not so much about the qualities of women but about the interference of their men!

The politics of reservation has gone wrong in a way and therefore it is good in one sense that it has not been passed for the Lok Sabha yet. An alternative to this has already been suggested in which 1/3rd or half the seats be reserved in political parties and not in constituencies. This leads to women being allowed to contest from wherever the party decides and not from reserved seats. Women will then get to fight seats against women and men. Proper planning will ensure that the parties don’t just give weak seats to women but will give women seats everywhere. This will lead to women feeling that they have earned their victory rather than being put through a performance of reservation.

As that stands we need to look at what the 50% women leaders in Kerala are going to accomplish. Are we scared of them? Do we look down upon them because we feel they are not up to it? Will they ruin Kerala and thereby God’s own country? One needs to look at the book of Esther in the bible. Esther, the woman chosen to be the wife of the king Ahasuerus is faced with the destruction of her people due to the plot hatched by Haman. The newly crowned queen was in all means faced with a difficult situation. Many would have thought that she does not have it in her to help her people and she will be able to do nothing at all. It is interesting as to what Esther does. “She took off her splendid apparel and put on garments of distress and mourning, and instead of costly perfumes she covered her head with ashes and dung.” Further… “She prayed to the Lord God and said, “O my Lord, you only are our King; help me, who am alone and have no helper but you, for my danger is in my hand.” Esther’s determination leads to the survival of her people. She understands the seriousness of the situation better than anyone else and helps her constituency.

Instead of one Esther we have several Esthers. It is but natural that we are going to doubt the efficiency of our Esthers. But what we should not do is to get in between the Esthers and God as they try to bring in a new dispensation in our state. Till we fix the problematic reservation bill, we need to be with our women who will try their best to serve their constituencies. Thus will happen as Mordecai dreams in the book of Esther. “Then they cried out to God; and at their outcry, as though from a tiny spring, there came a great river, with abundant water; light came and the sun rose, and the lowly were exalted and devoured those held in honour.”

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