Friday 13th proved lucky for Indian women who fought the state elections as they seized the reins of government in 2 of 5 states
Friday the thirteenth proved lucky for Indian women who fought the state elections as they seized the reins of government in two of five states. These two victories by women tip the overall balance in the favour of women rulers in India as another two states already have women as chief ministers. Moreover, the President of India, three Union Ministers, three Ministers of State, and the Speaker in the Union Parliament, the leader of the ruling party and the leader of the opposition are– you guessed it! – all women.
As the fiery Mamta Banerjee and the imperial J. Jayalalitha take over as Chief Ministers of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu respectively, they join another two the dominating Mayawati and the suave Sheila Dikshit in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi to rule over 368 million Indians – about a third of India’s 1.2 billion people.
Let’s start at the very top. Pratibha Patil is the President. The Union Cabinet has three Ministers – Ambika Soni, Kumari Salja and Mamta Banerjee (expected to resign now) – who are joined by four Ministers of State – Preneet Kaur, Agatha Sangma, Panabaka Lakshmi and D. Purandeswari.
The political party scene is dominated by the Italian sphinx Sonia Gandhi leading the Congress and the peppery Sushma Swaraj blasting the government as the leader of the opposition in the parliament. This makes India perhaps the only country in the world with women in so many top political positions.
“If all over the world the woman is allowed freedom to grow to her potential, there will be many, many women enlightened; many, many women mystics, poets, and painters. And they will enhance not only the woman’s part of the world — because the world is one — they will enhance the whole world,”
says the enlightened master Osho.
Women will become front runners in politics if the proposed and long delayed Women’s Reservation Bill to reserve 33.3 per cent seats in Parliament and state legislatures is passed by the parliament. Introduced in 1996, it seeks to empower women at the federal, state and local levels of decision making by reserving a third of the seats for them.
A third of the seats at village level elections have been reserved for women already. The experience of women’s reservation at the panchayat (village governing body) level has been very encouraging. A million women are being elected to the panchayats in the country every five years. This is the largest mobilisation of women in public life in the world. But various political parties have staunchly opposed it because they fear many of their male leaders would not get a chance to fight elections if 33.3 per cent seats are reserved for women. Men on the back foot!
“It has taken her over a century and a half to get equal rights – at least under the law in most countries. Yet gender equality is a dream beyond the horizon in most poor countries of the world. In some, she is still enslaved.”
“The ultimate result is that the woman has become very bitter. Her whole being has become a cry for revolt. She is not at peace to laugh at things; she is in utter misery and despair, and unless she becomes liberated she will not have a sense of humour. Once she becomes liberated, she will leave man far behind in all creative dimensions and she will be really joyous and playful.”
“It is for the betterment of both man and woman that the woman should be given every freedom and equal opportunity for her individuality.”
These are not empty words but Osho put them in practice by always giving women full authority and responsibility for establishing, expanding and managing his communes. Osho did not talk about women’s equality but their superiority; not as the weaker sex but as the stronger sex.
But how will they survive in a man’s macho world of aggression and violence?
“A man is not of necessity masculine, a woman is not of necessity feminine. A woman can be masculine, for example, Joan of Arc or, in India, Laxmibhai. These women were warriors, great soldiers; they were not feminine at all. Biologically, of course, they were feminine, their bodies were those of women, but their very souls were those of men. They have to be counted as masculine.”
Indeed, India has the distinction of having the first women as the Prime Minister – the steely Indira Gandhi who stood up to domestic and international challenges and threats with courage and aplomb. In fact, she was dubbed as the only man in the cabinet! And also called ‘Mother India’.
“Mother, sister, girlfriend, wife and again mother…..all different and yet the same – a woman. She is the ultimate power, inspiration, beauty, charm, elegance and all the wonderful virtues one can think of. She can also be destructive and play havoc with the lives of men, start wars to destroy thousands of lives. She is stronger than man – both physically and emotionally. Yet she has been dominated, oppressed, tortured and humiliated by man.”
Yet doubts remain about how well a woman can rule. Can a woman take tough decisions? What is her attitude towards her subjects? Will she approach them as a tough task master or care and nurture them as a mother?
“God is a mother, a motherly phenomenon. This whole existence is motherly. And God is far softer than man can ever be, far more vulnerable, far more open. A woman in her ultimate flowering becomes a mothering energy… she can mother the whole existence. She feels blessed, and she can bless the whole existence.”