Three powerful women politicians, each from a very different section of society, may pose a big threat to the chances of Prime Minister Narendra Modi winning a second term in Lok Sabha elections 2019 due by May.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, joined the struggle in January, when the opposition Congress party made her its face in Uttar Pradesh.
Two other senior female politicians – the firebrand chief minister of West Bengal state, Mamata Banerjee, and Mayawati, a former Uttar Pradesh chief minister – are also plotting to unseat Modi’s ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition by forming big opposition groupings, though there is no firm agreement between them as yet.
“The opposition has more powerful women leaders than the NDA, and therefore they will be able to carry conviction with voters generally, and with women voters, in particular,” said Yashwant Sinha, 81, a former finance minister who quit Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which dominates the NDA, last year.
“They should be very worried, especially after the defeat in the three major Hindi heartland states,” he said, referring to BJP’s losses in recent state elections.
The entry of Priyanka into the political fray drew a gushing reaction from much of the media.
There were pictures of elated supporters dancing, a lot of talk of the 47-year-old’s resemblance to her grandmother, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and comments about her gifts as a speaker able to connect with voters. That contrasts with her brother, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who in the past has been criticized for lacking the common touch.
The other two women seen threatening Modi’s grip on power have a lot more experience than Priyanka, and both could be seen as potential prime ministerial candidates in a coalition government.
Mayawati, a 63-year-old former teacher who goes by just the one name, last month formed an alliance between her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) – which mainly represents Hinduism’s lowest caste, the Dalits – and its once bitter foes, the Samajwadi Party that tends to draw support from other lower castes and Muslims.
Then there is 64-year-old Banerjee, who has twice been railways minister in federal governments. Last month, Banerjee – who built her All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) party after leaving Congress in 1997 – organised an anti-BJP rally in Kolkata that attracted hundreds of thousands.
Party colleagues of the three women leaders said they were not available for comment.
To be sure, Modi remains, for now, the most popular leader in the country, opinion polls show.
Modi also cannot be accused of ignoring women’s issues during his first term. He has launched a government campaign – Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, or “Save the Daughter, Educate the Daughter” – and called for the eradication of female foeticide. His campaigns to provide toilets and subsidised gas cylinders for poorer Indians are often promoted as ways to empower women.
He has six women in his 26-strong cabinet, though a lot of power is centralised with Modi and a couple of senior male lieutenants.
The BJP said it would seek votes on the basis of achievements under Modi and the opposition did not have a “positive alternative to the government, and its activities”.
Congress has said it wants to form a post-poll partnership with Mayawati’s BSP and SP alliance, though it will be fighting against it in 78 seats. The alliance will not contest two Gandhi strongholds won multiple times by Rahul and his mother Sonia.
Mayawati told a press conference announcing the alliance with the SP that Congress was not part of it because they did not think “there would be much benefit in having them with us before the election”.
The BSP, however, backs Congress-led governments in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
There is no formal alliance between Banerjee and Congress, though she does know Rahul and Priyanka.
Dinesh Trivedi, a former federal minister and a close aide to Banerjee, said she enjoys a good personal relationship with Sonia Gandhi, the matriarch of the dynasty and a former Congress president, and so working with her two children would not be a problem.
“In terms of experience, Mamata Banerjee is far ahead,” Trivedi said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka Gandhi would look at Mamata Banerjee as somebody who could really inspire them.”
The strength of Priyanka, Mayawati and Banerjee as a potential opposition alliance is that they can appeal to different parts of the electorate.
Two Congress sources said the formal entry into politics of Priyanka could help rejuvenate the party in Uttar Pradesh, where it is a marginal player. Coming from what is India’s first family, they said she could appeal to upper caste voters in the state who typically vote for the pro-business BJP.
A Congress leader close to the Gandhis said she would attract women, young people, and floating voters.
Priyanka is far from a political neophyte, having supported her brother and mother during previous election campaigns. She has also experienced political and personal tragedy, as Rahul Gandhi stressed in a speech last week.
“You have to understand my relationship with my sister – we have been through a hell of a lot together,” he said.
“Everybody is like ‘look, you come from this illustrious family, and everything is easy’. Actually it’s not so easy. My father was assassinated, my grandmother was assassinated, huge political battles, wins in political battles, losses in political battles.”
BSP spokesman Sudhindra Bhadoria said Mayawati’s gender did not matter.
“She has managed a party from scratch to this level. The important fact is that she has organised large numbers, both men and women, Dalits, other backward castes, the poor, minorities,” Bhadoria said. “I don’t fit them in the straightjacket of male-female. I think she’s a national leader.”
She is regarded as ambitious. A U.S. diplomatic cable in 2008, among many thousands leaked by Wikileaks two years later, described her as “first-rate egomaniac” who “is obsessed with becoming prime minister”.
But Mayawati has also been credited with empowering oppressed lower caste Hindus.
Banerjee, who defeated a 34-year-old communist government in West Bengal in an election in 2011, is known for her streetwise political skills and portrays herself as a secular leader in a country polarised under the BJP.
12 Rajya Sabha MPs suspended for ‘violent behaviour’ in previous Parliament session
12 Opposite MPs were suspended from the Rajya Sabha for the remainder of the Winter Session because of ‘uncontrollable conduct’ during the Monsoon Session of Parliament.
The authority notice said, “This House takes cognizance and firmly sentences the absolute negligence to the power of the Chair, complete maltreatment of rules of the House steadily accordingly wilfully hindering the matter of House through their exceptional demonstrations of offense, derisive, rowdy and fierce conduct and purposeful assaults on security workforce on the last day of 254th Session of Rajya Sabha for example August 11.”
Rundown OF SUSPENDED MPs
1. Elamaram Kareem (CPM)
2. Phulo Devi Netam (INC)
3. Chhaya Verma (INC)
4. Ripun Bora (INC)
5. Binoy Viswam (CPI)
6. Rajamani Patel (INC)
7. Dola Sen (TMC)
8. Shanta Chhetri (TMC)
9. Syed Nasir Hussain (INC)
10. Priyanka Chaturvedi (Shiv Sena)
11. Anil Desai (Shiv Sena)
12. Akhilesh Prasad Singh (INC)
Because of consistent interruptions and intermissions as the Opposition fought over the Pegasus sneaking around line and the three ranch laws, the Monsoon Session of Parliament finished two days sooner than what was planned for August.
On the last day of the meeting, Opposition MPs purportedly jumped on the authorities’ table, waved dark material and tossed records when the House started a conversation on ranchers’ dissent against new change laws. They likewise purportedly mauled the security staff
Notwithstanding, the Opposition affirmed that their MPs were messed up by the security faculty.
Following this, Rajya Sabha executive Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla had chosen to embrace a definite assessment of such rowdy scenes previously and the future game-plan in such cases.
Navjot Singh Sidhu resigns as Punjab Congress chief
Navjot Singh Sindhu who had been appointed President of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee on 23rd July had resigned from the party. This incident just took place just before Punjab’s former prime minister Amarinder Singh came on a visit to Delhi. In his letter after resignation he mentioned he might have resigned as a President but he cares about the welfare of the people of Punjab and he will continue to serve Congress.
“Nothing Political”: Sonu Sood, Arvind Kejriwal Meet For A Delhi Scheme
Arvind Kejriwal, whose AAP is the majority opposition in Punjab, also did not comment on Mr Sood’s possible entry into politics, and instead stressed his “inspiring” work.
Actor Sonu Sood on Friday played down talk of his political debut ahead of Assembly elections in Punjab next year, following speculation that either he or his sister – Malvika Sachar, a well-known social activist in the state’s Moga area – could contest on a Congress ticket.
Mr Sood was interacting with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for ‘Desh ke Mentor‘ – a programme to guide students in government-run schools.
‘Sonu Soodji has been agreed to be a brand ambassador of our soon-to-be-launched ‘Desh ke Mentor‘ programme. It is matter of joy for us,” Mr Kejriwal said at the event.
When asked about his potential entry into politics, Sonu Sood told reporters “politics was not discussed… this is a bigger issue than that”.
“There was nothing political… I have always been saying this. Politics was not discussed. This is a bigger issue… I don’t think there can be a bigger issue,” he said, adding, “People always say, ‘If you want to do good work then come to politics …’ It is a wonderful field… but we didn’t discuss.”
Mr Kejriwal, whose Aam Aadmi Party is the majority opposition party in Punjab, also did not comment on Mr Sood’s possible entry into politics, and instead stressed on his “inspiring” work.
“Sonu Sood is an inspiration for the entire nation… Anywhere in the country, if someone is in trouble, (he) contacts and helps them. This is (his) wonder and charisma,” Mr Kejriwal said as he appointed Mr Sood as the brand ambassador for the programme.
The Delhi government’s ‘Education Mentoring Programme’ is part of its ‘Youth for Education’ initiative, and will see over 200 B.Tech, M.Tech and PhD students from the Indira Gandhi Delhi Technological University mentor around 1,000 school students.
The actor took to Twitter to say he is “honoured and humbled” to be the brand ambassador for the programme.
Truly honoured and humbled to be the brand ambassador of Desh Ke Mentor a programme which has given me an opportunity to mentor lakhs of students across India. Thank you so much @ArvindKejriwal sir for making me a part of this initiative.
Jai Hind ??
— sonu sood (@SonuSood) August 27, 2021
Announcing the programme in May, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who is also the Education Minister, said he hoped it would lead the way for more women in science.
“Although our nation is seeing major innovations in every field… these are mostly led by men. The participation of women is abysmal … especially in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects”, he said.
Mr Sood also discussed ‘Pravasi Rojagar‘ – an online job portal he set up to help migrant labourers.
“I was connected with the 7.5 lakh migrants. I had their data… Whenever I sent some home, I used to ask if they were coming back. They told me that they would if they got jobs. They were scared (thinking) parents might stop them from going back to (cities) where they worked,” he explained.
The popular actor helped hundreds of migrant workers (mainly from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh) return home after they were left stranded during last year’s Covid lockdown.
He has also provided financial assistance to around 400 families of migrant workers, and helped people during the oxygen crisis that marked the second wave of infections.
“I’ve decided to help families of the deceased or injured migrants for them to have a secure future. I feel it’s my personal responsibility to support them,” he was quoted by news agency PTI.
He even launched a toll-free helpline number to help those who needed assistance.
With input from ANI, PTI
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