My previous article about my late maternal aunt is 3 months old! Yes, after that I have not posted anything though I keep visiting my space everyday to check on visitors. Forget about other visitors, even my visits here reduced as the vacation bug bit me. Though I planned to write something during the break, as they say, it never happened. Yeah, there were lots of distractions also. The rains, shopping, minor commitments, travel etc kept me away from this space. At the end of each day I just wanted to hit the bed and sleep tight. Due to pleasant weather in Trivandrum, my hometown, sleep was not a problem and everyday was relaxing and so I came back refreshed.
During the month of May, this year, Assembly elections were held in 4 States and one union territory to decide who will hold the reins for the next 5 years. Those 5 places were Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Assam, West Bengal. While BJP (or NDA) in Assam had to be content by forming alliance with Asom Gano Parishad, DMK party was able to lead in Puducherry but had to form alliance with Congress to get majority. But the same DMK party headed by Karunanidhi and his son M K Stalin could not convince the public enough to defeat the incumbent Chief Minister J Jayalalitha. Kerala and West Bengal are the strongholds of communist parties in India. Though communism is still strong in Kerala, its grip has loosened in West Bengal after the death of Shri Jyothi Basu. The people seem to be letting go the principles of marxism and communism as they feel it is holding back the state from advancing forward. The TMC party wins again and Mamta Banerjee continues to be the Chief Minister for another term. In Kerala, it was not just anti-incumbency but charges of corruption, Solar scam against the UDF Government paved way for LDF party to come in with Shri Pinaray Vijayan taking over the reins. Thus, out of 4 states, we have 2 states (Tamil Nadu, West Bengal) where women Chief Ministers ruling for another term. This is truly remarkable and there may be many factors why these women, Amma and Didi (Jayalalitha and Mamta) could continue to be rulers for another term. In Tamil Nadu, there are very less alternatives other than AIADMK. Though they are women chief ministers, their cabinets have negligible percentage of women with portfolios. In India, women active in politics is nothing new, but they are far and few in between. We had one woman, prime minister, one woman president and few states have/had chief minister as a woman. The answers for why women represent a negligible percentage are also not hard to find. The Indian Parliament, of which majority are men, continue to oppose women's reservation bill.
Kerala, which is one of the most advanced states in India, in terms of standards of living, literacy, human indices is yet to have a woman chief minister. This state, whose political ideologies tilted more to left, is more conservative and highly patriarchal. Centuries back, when this state (Malabar, Travancore, Cochin) was ruled by royal families, women rulers had more say in the affairs of the State and there were powerful women rulers in the royal families. It followed the matriarchal lineage where women own the properties and men work in the fields. All these changed over the period of time with the breakage of joint family set-up. Kerala is famous for the love of yellow metal and women are sent to husband's house with kilos of gold keeping the ugly dowry system alive. The patriarchal thinking in people prevents many women from entering politics and to rise to the higher echelons. The one notable political lady who could have become a Chief Minister during 1980s was K R Gowri Amma. She was a Law student who took part in many political activities. Her most notable achievement was Land Reforms Bill and Agrarian relations Bill promulgated for the benefit of long-time tenants and workers. She has been elected as a minister during various years from 1960 to 2001. She was expelled from CPI (Marxist) in 1994 due to anti-party activities and she went on to form an organization known as Janaathipatya Samrakshana Samiti (JSS). Her organization merged with UDF and she became Agricultural minister. She is still alive and kicking and into the wrong side of 90s. All through her life she has associated herself with various social and political movements and truly worked for the welfare of the folks of Kerala. I need not repeat why she could not become the Chief Minister. As the LDF and UDF alliances keep changing in the State, the possibility of a woman becoming the Chief Minister seems to be nowhere in the sight.
K.R Gowri Amma
The trigger for me to write this article is the Presidential elections that will be held in USA this November. I used to think that USA is another place along with Kerala, both more advanced places, yet to see a woman president and a woman chief minister respectively. USA had presidents elected from the year 1789 and in the span of more than 230 years, it is yet to have one lady president. Kerala is a relatively young democratic State. Many less developed countries and states have already seen a woman holding the reins of power.
While I was wondering whether I would get to see a woman becoming the President of the world's first super power, here comes Hillary Clinton. When rest of the first ladies were content enough to be glamorous to accompany their husbands, Hillary Clinton is a politician and a personality in her own right. Her parents, though conservative, saw that she grew up to be independent and strong-willed. Being a political science graduate, she was quite active during her college days and more of a Republican. But afterwards her views changed to become more of a democrat. She co-founded organizations for the benefit of Arkansas' children, foster care and families. It can be argued she is known more because she was first lady of state of Arkansas and then USA. But the qualifications and the exposure that she has towards politics from her college days to this day can be matched by negligible number of her peers. Except for her support of the Military attack in Afghanisthan and that in Iraq to remove the regime of Saddam Hussein, the rest are all commendable. She became the first female senator of New York in the year 2000 before becoming the 67th US Secretary of State. She unsuccessfully contested in the primaries in the year 2008 in which Barrack Obama won. One point which is not to be missed is how her marriage with Bill Clinton survived after the Monica Lewinski scandal. It was known that privately she was shattered, but publicly, she defended her scandalous husband. Now, she is back even stronger and contesting in the primaries against her democratic colleague Bernie Sanders. As of today, her lead is only thin with Bernie Sanders. Donald Trump of Republican Party is more controversial with his rigid policies like making laws strict and against immigrants. He is not favoured even among his party circles. Numerous factors favor Hillary Clinton compared to other candidates and it has to be seen in the following months whether she will successfully garner the primaries. If so, sooner are the chances that we may see the first woman becoming the president of the most powerful country on the earth.
I do not know when I will get see a woman becoming the Chief Minister of Kerala, but I see more chances of a woman reaching that coveted post in USA. I wish her all the best to win the primaries against Bernie Sanders. This time, Americans do not seem to have much choice other than Hillary Rodham Clinton!!! If Hillary Clinton does not win, there are not much chances of another woman becoming a president in the vicinity as like K. R Gowri Amma of Kerala. Two parallel, powerful and well-qualified politicians whose only fault is that of gender!
P.S. Await the next article very soon!!!