IIM-Bangalore offers course to make women ‘professional politicians’

Twenty-six women have enrolled for Rs 4.7-lakh,3-month course

Written by Saritha Rai | Bangalore | Published:September 20, 2012 3:31 am

An entrepreneur who turned to politics,Falguni Rajput,39,felt she wasn’t getting anywhere despite spending five years as a treasurer in the women’s wing of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Vasai-Virar,Maharashtra. Then she found out about a course at IIM-Bangalore promising to churn out “professional politicians” in three months.

Rajput is enrolled there now with 25 other women from across India to become a trained,certified politician. “The programme will empower aspiring women politicians with the skills needed to break new ground in politics,” said Rajeev Gowda,a professor of economics & social sciences and chairman of the Centre for Public Policy who is spearheading the course. “It is about enhancing them in new dimensions that are not normally associated with Indian politics.”

The participants include a software engineer from Bangalore who aims to enter politics in New Delhi,a college teacher who is the granddaughter of Karnataka’s first chief minister K C Reddy,an Art of Living teacher from Srinagar,and the daughter of an influential Congress politician from Gujarat who intends to contest the state Assembly elections in December.

Rajput dipped into personal funds to pay the Rs 4.75 lakh for the course. “There is very little awareness about how women can get to a level in politics where we can influence policy,” she said. The notion that all politics is dirty makes it doubly challenging for a woman who is made to feel she is not in an “appropriate” profession,said Rajput.

According to the Millennium Development Goals Report 2012 released by the United Nations,representation of women in Parliament has been more or less stagnant for the past two decades,crawling up from 9.7 per cent in 1991 to 10.96 per cent in 2012. The world’s largest democracy has only 60 women MPs in the 544-member Lok Sabha and 26 in the 241-member Rajya Sabha. The inequity may be righted if the women’s reservation Bill,two decades in the making but staunchly opposed by male MPs,is passed.

Pushpavalli R,a Congress corporator and former deputy mayor of Mysore,wants to be ready for this change. “I am waiting for the Bill to be passed. I will contest for an Assembly seat,” she said.

When she was elected to the Mysore city corporation where already a third of the seats are reserved for women,gender was her only qualification,admitted Pushpavalli frankly. “I was asked to stay quiet,” she said,and it was only gradually that she and her fellow women corporators started to find their voice.

Shweta Brahmbhatt,30,a foreign-trained investment banker,conceded her Congressman father’s political influence will provide a smooth entry into politics — “I don’t have to start at the grassroots level.” Brahmbhatt is likely to contest from Thakkarbapa Nagar in Ahmedabad in the coming Gujarat elections.

Having quit a job that got her Rs 15 lakh annually for the course,she added: “For me politics is not about power or money as I come from an influential family. It is more about giving my life a sense of purpose by doing social good.”

The course deals with the nitty-gritty of politics from opinion polls,creating a strong digital presence,political marketing and constituency management to leading agitations,delivering effective speeches and handling the media.

Priyanka Srivatsav,28,from Ghaziabad who works as a software engineer said she needed “all the weapons sharpened to enter the battle” as she neither has a family background in politics nor the financial resources to contest an election. Likely to join the Congress in New Delhi,she sees it as a “placement in politics”.

Rajput is confident many of the women in the course would make it. “People are looking for change,they no longer want the MLA’s son or the MP’s grandson,” she said. “They are looking for honest,educated,trained politicians to vote for.”

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