Essential To Bring Women To Centre Of Politics: Indian Politician

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In an unprecedented move, India’s main opposition Congress party has given 40 percent of its tickets to female candidates for the ongoing assembly elections in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, also the country’s most populous with more than 200 million residents.

The driving force behind the Congress move is Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, daughter of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the party’s current president, Italian-born Sonia Gandhi. Priyanka is also Politician the younger sister of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

Despite belonging to India’s most prominent political family, the 50-year-old – married to businessman Robert Vadra and mother of two children – is a late entrant to active politics and had so far confined herself to campaigning for her mother and brother during the parliamentary elections.

That changed in 2019 when she was given the charge to turn Congress fortunes around in politically-crucial Uttar Pradesh, a state the party ruled for decades before the rise of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and caste-based regional parties in the 1990s.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Priyanka shares her views on the need to empower more women, the BJP’s religious Politician targeting minorities, mainly Muslims, and what her party is doing to resist it.

What was the idea behind giving 40 percent tickets to female candidates in Uttar Pradesh?

Priyanka Gandhi: I would say that’s a rather cynical way of looking at what is a pioneering step forward for the full participation of women in Indian politics. Uttar Pradesh is the largest state in India, it greatly influences the nation’s politics. It also happens to be one of the most deeply entrenched patriarchies in the world. What we are doing is challenging this patriarchy right from within it. The idea, not just of giving 40 percent tickets to women, but also of creating a separate manifesto for their empowerment by giving them employment opportunities, laying out plans for their health, education, safety and upliftment is to give them their rightful due. Women are treated with condescension as a Politician force by most political parties in India. An example of this is that the ruling party’s flagship programme for women addresses them as “daughters” and consists of handing them one free gas cylinder per year!

In a polity divided into the lines of caste and religion, women can be an immense driving force for change if they consolidate and become cognisant of their own collective political power. They can be instrumental in lifting the politics of the nation above narrow divisions and demanding a focus on development, health, education, employment, economics and other issues that deeply affect the public. It is essential to bring women to the centre of political agenda and discourse. We are happy to have spearheaded this change.

What took you so long to enter active politics? And are you the Congress’s chief ministerial candidate in Uttar Pradesh?

Priyanka Gandhi: My brother and I had a rough childhood as both my grandmother in whose home we grew up and my father was assassinated when we were very young. I wanted my children to have a simple and normal childhood. I did not want to expose them to the harshness of public life so I stayed out of politics except for managing my mother’s and brother’s constituencies and focus on bringing them up and making sure I was there for them. And I am not the Congress party’s chief ministerial candidate in Uttar Pradesh. I think it would be premature to make such assumptions. Let’s wait till the results are out.


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Ritu Singh seasoned news hunter with ink in veins and truth as a compass. Cuts through spin, exposes hidden agendas, decodes power plays. Unwavering voice for accountability, amplifying unheard stories. A watchdog who sleeps with one eye open, keeping democracy on its toes

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