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Daily Archives: June 15, 2007

Pratibha Patil, President of India

Pratibha Patil ShekhawatSay hello to President Aunty.

The Indian political class has made such an all out fetish of incompetence in governance for so long that it now finds itself in a position where they can’t even get together and choose a figurehead. Even when they’ve known for years that this day was coming.

To cut a long story short, while Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat struggled to convince his erstwhile party and current Opposition-in-chief, the BJP, that he deserved to go the whole hog and shift into the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the ruling coaltion dithered over who to choose.

To most of us, there was only one man who towered above all other candidates: President Kalam. However, this was one election reserved for politicians. And with all the shrewd competence we’ve come to expect from them, they were unable to hit upon a candidate, much less a consensus.

Anyhow, as you’ve probably heard by now, we now have a nominee from the government for the post of the First Citizen of the Republic of India – and it’s none other than that renowned statesperson Pratibha Patil! You know her, of course, from…er, um…

Sigh.

As I look at this little old lady, her pallu pulled discreetly over her head (bringing back disturbing images of India Indira Gandhi), it’s hard for me to see her as an actual person. The image of a political nonentity wished upon us for sins unknown pops a lot more readily into my mind. In this matter, as in life, there are no easy answers.

On the one hand:

  • She was a practicing lawyer before she joined politics
  • She’s been in politics about twice as long I’ve been alive, including 20 years as a Minister – believe me, that counts for a lot.
  • She was the first female Leader of the Opposition in Maharashtra
  • She was the first female Governor of Rajasthan
  • She was Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha
  • As Governor she essentially blocked Rajasthan’s “Freedom of Religion” Bill
  • First female Presidential candidate with a real chance

So clearly, this is no lightweight. Those are some impressive items to put on your resume. We also haven’t heard anything scandalous about her. Yet. Which might be because we haven’t heard at all about her. So on the other hand, there are the reasons why Sonia Gandhi proposed her name as a candidate:

  • Nehru-Gandhi family cultist
  • Left & DMK nixed all other Congress candidates
  • Gender
  • Member of the Congress Party
  • Maharashtrian married to a Rajasthani (a Shekhawat from the next village over from the Vice President’s)
  • Not Bhairon Singh Shekhawat

From The HinduOkay, so that last is applicable to all other candidates but that still leaves us with four other humongous reasons why her candidacy is so problematic.

Those who’ve been so kind as to visit this blog before already know exactly where I stand on women’s rights. But I’m not merely a woman – I’m also an Indian. And my brain isn’t so itty bitty that it’s likely to explode at the prospect of being both at the same time. So everytime I’m confronted by some Congress guy telling me how this is such a great step forward for all Indian women, I’m tempted to grind his funny little cap into the nearest puddle of mud, just for the heck of it.

This isn’t a blow for women’s rights, it’s an act of condescension. It’s the political equivalent of getting a pat on the head, a couple of sweeties to eat and then being told to run along and be good.

The point wasn’t to send a woman to Raisina Hill. The point was to elect the best person for the job – caste, religion and gender no bar. It’s not rocket science, we’ve been doing this for 60 years now. And there was no reason why this decision had to be made in 2 hours – you’ve had all the time in the world to think about this day.

Is Patil the right person for the job? I don’t know because everybody is so hung up on her gender that we’re lucky to have the barebones of her resume. How am I supposed to get all excited about a random saree wafting towards the Presidential Palace? What kind of a “message” is that?

She seems like a nice enough lady and in all probability, she’s going to become our next President – I don’t want to dismiss her without giving her a chance. But this constant carping on her gender puts my teeth on edge.

Tell me how she’s the best person for the job, tell me why she deserves this honor, tell me why I should be proud of her for things she did rather than something decided in her mother’s womb. Tell me why she represents me and my country. Don’t try to guilt me into accepting her as the face of my country.

I guess today’s a proud day for women if you tell me so, but personally, it feels like it’s a far prouder day for sycophants.

Update: Pratibha Patil becomes President of India

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Posted by on June 15, 2007 in Life, News, Politics