Scorned Women Await The Ides of May

Akbar Khan

Bhopal, April 28, 2009

With political arc lights focused around regional parties rocking the rickety pan-Indian boat, female protagonists have sensed reprieve, ahead of Phase III of the staggered five-leg polls for the 15th Lok Sabha, and are counting on election results to mark their coming of age in the male dominated bastion of Indian politics.

Indications suggest that the next government in the country, in all likelihood, will comprise of at least two, if not more, of the country’s top female politicians – Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee and of course Jayalalitha.

As of now, Sonia Gandhi – at the helm of the Congress – has thrown in her bit behind Mamata Banerjee while both Mayawati and Jayalalitha have decided to play their aces safe and close to their bosom. But the politically astute suggest that the situation may witness huge changes after the ides of May bring in the election results and respite for the trio.

Mamata and Jayalalitha had suffered huge electoral reversals during the 2004 LS polls while Mayawati had barely managed to cut the grade. But this time around the May 16 declaration of poll results is likely to mark a phoenix like rise of the trio that has often been scorned at by its male counterparts.

Depending on how and which way the vote swings larger political outfits – The Congress and the BJP – are already hinging hopes of a future government on these well-rounded feminine shoulders.

Back in 2004, Mayawati emerged as the strongest female politician outside of the national parties while ending second behind arch-rival Samajwadi Party with a tally of 19 from the total 80 Lok Sabha segments in Uttar Pradesh.

The situation was far worse for the Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress, which  contesting the elections on its own, had just managed to scrape in a single parliamentary win in West Bengal where the CPM bagged 26 out of the total 42 LS seats in the state.

In Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK under Jayalalitha suffered a huge ignominy with her party failing to register a single victory in face of a DMK onslaught which ended with a spectacular tally of 16 from the state’s total 39 LS seats.

But that was then, a lot of political water and blood has flowed under the bridge since the last parliamentary outing and this year the political outfits headed by the trio are said to be on the make and vowing to vote out their political opponents.

UP chief minister Mayawati, spurred on by a mammoth 2007 win in UP Vidhan Sabha polls, has emerged as a key contender for the top office in the country. Many say that her control of 206 of the state’s 402 assembly segments will serve as the foundation of her best-ever showing in the state.

Riding a crest with the social engineering ploy, the Mayawati campaign is said to be counting on a split in the state’s ‘secular’ vote and the Congress’ refusal to ink a pre-poll pact with the Samawadi Party, to emerge from the contest with flying colours.

SP chief Maulayam Singh’s decision to take top BJP leader and former chief minister Kalyan Singh under his wings is also said to have given flight to Bahujan Samaj Party dream of catapulting the Dalit leader to the top office on the Race Course Road.

Prospects of the Trinamool Congress under Mamata Banerjee, who finally acceded to Congress overtures for a pre-poll alliance in the state, are said to have hit a high with the polls in the state now being billed a straight face-off between the ruling CPM and the Congress-Trinamool alliance.

Her anti-land acquisition campaign in the state, however, was a double edged sword that could dwarf her campaign at a time when the Left parties are said to be in the midst of policy differences and batting on an uneasy wicket.

Jayalalitha, after an uncharacteristic quiet, recently returned to the political thick amid indications of the plight of the civilian Tamil population in Sri Lanka wrecking havoc on the DMK in the state.

A fast mover the former film actress now heads a pro-Tamil civilian alliance that has forced a string of somersaults and backward flips out of DMK patriarch Karunanidhi who appears to be getting more and more crunched between a rock and a hard place.

With the Mayawati – Mamata – Jayalalitha trio all set to take centre-stage, maybe the next government will be pushed into ensuring the passage of a crucial bill reserving the presence of women in parliament.

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