Let me start by stating the obvious; ours is a patriarchal society where men have always been the primary authority figures and over the years nothing much has changed as far as the Indian society is concerned. Being a woman in India is tough; it’s tougher if you are a woman into politics and the going gets even tougher if you are in Rajasthan.
Before I actually discuss Rajasthan and its politics, let’s see how women politicians have been wielded upon. If we move to the Eastern India, we have a woman ruling the state and Mamata Banerjee’s journey to the CM’s office has not been easy. Who can forget the infamous incident when she was dragged by her hair and shoved out of the Writer’s Building in Kolkata when she had gone to the then Chief Minister seeking justice for a rape victim? Moving down the Southern India, we have Jayalalitha who was manhandled by the DMK members who even tried to pull her sari. These two instances pose a larger question, that, had there been men in their positions would it have been the same? Can we imagine a male politician being dragged by his hair or being stripped off his dhoti? No!
Being born into the desert state, I realize how difficult it would have been for Vasundhara Raje to ascent to power. Rajasthan is one of the states which has one of the lowest literacy rates, child marriages are still a norm, sex ratio is highly skewed and female infanticide is one of the gravest problems faced. I have so many marwari friends whose families still don’t allow their women folk to join the ‘barat’ during weddings, ghoonghat is very much a reality in large number of homes, and many more conservative practices!
Vasundhara Raje has been a target of sleaze and muck by the Congress who has always tried to pull her down. Many would argue that isn’t that obvious in any democracy? Yes, it sure is but one needs to draw a line somewhere! In its desperation to save its seat, the Congress party came out with CD’s and posters of utterly disgusting nature that talk about Vasundhara Raje’s personal lifestyle. Raje is quite famous in the state because of her drinking. Hence, Ashok Gehlot’s speeches saw lines like ‘8 PM, No CM’ hinting at Raje’s habit of drinking in the evenings. One of his ministers also asked the people once “How can you vote for somebody who drinks?” According to Congress ministers drinking is a sin and if women do it then it’s next to a criminal offence. Otherwise, what could explain making drinking an “issue” in the election? If that was not enough, Gehlot raised another point in his speeches where he talked about Raje’s visits to London. He said ‘Latka-jhatka dikhati hai… pata nahin London gayi thi ya kahan gayi thi’ attacking her character. Of course the Congress and its ministers wouldn’t have bothered had it been a man instead of Vasundhara. Much of it has to do with the fact that our society smells of sexism and chauvinism. Raje might be an alcoholic; she might be even in love with someone but how does that make her a woman of bad character? How does that make her less worthy for the post of Chief Minister?
What’s even more surprising is that Vasundhara Raje doesn’t have so many well-wishers in her own party too. Her first term as the Chief Minister saw a lot of infighting among the party men and much of it had to with the fact that the men in her party were just not happy with a woman calling the shots and often called her autocratic. For a state where most women are still confined to the four walls of the house, having a woman chief minister was of course a humongous change. Many attribute BJP’s loss in 2009 due to internal bickering. Later in 2010 she even stepped down as the Leader of opposition in Rajasthan. But little did BJP realize that the only hope of their party in the state was Raje. Eventually, things were forgotten and she was back to take hold the charge of her party. The BJP realized that there was not even a single leader in the state that could get into the shoes of Vasundhara. Her charisma, confidence, ability to connect with people, oratory skills had no match. The same men who made her step down now had to stand behind her because they failed.
As I write this post, most of the exit polls predict a thumping victory for the BJP and Vasundhara Raje in the Assembly polls held in the state. Her victory will be a slap on the faces of all the men who tried to pull her down by questioning her character. Her victory shall be the victory of every woman who dreams of achieving something in life. Her victory shall be the victory of every woman who wants to break the glass ceiling. Her victory shall be the victory of every woman who wants to come out of the shackles of patriarchal society. Her victory will be the victory of every woman who wants to come out of the four walls of the house. Her victory will indicate that the society is changing and a woman drinking or a woman in love is not considered a taboo anymore. Her victory shall be the victory of every woman!