Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was clearly the centre of attention at party’s vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s rally in Rae Bareli on Friday, and made the best of it with her comfortable body language, terse arguments and candid wit. She hit hard against the party’s rivals, particularly Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had been fervently campaigning against the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance in Uttar Pradesh. Gandhi Vadra strategically culled phrases from Modi’s speeches, conveying that she found it disappointing when Modi referred to women as “someone’s sister, someone’s daughter, someone’s wife or someone’s mother”. The fact that he never acknowledged women as individuals, distinct of their relationship with men, was startling. It was something to think about and be critical of.
At the rally, Priyanka pointed out that if Modi truly cared about the countless daughters, wives and mothers of the country, his government wouldn’t have thrown them off guard with demonetisation. That’s a fact. A majority of those who suffered the most during demonetisation, were women belonging to economically underprivileged families. They were the ones who had scrounged for cash and saved them underneath their mattresses. In the aftermath of the note ban, reports surfaced that demonetisation had also led to greater cases of domestic violence (http://bit.ly/2l0Qoqu).
Since the time Priyanka has been campaigning in the elections, she has rarely spoken about women or their concerns. Today, Priyanka, taking the stand for the women, therefore revealed a different side to her – a glimmer, perhaps, of the symbol she could become for women’s empowerment. There is, of course, nothing to confirm that she will (purely because politics is not her primary agenda – she’s often seen at the periphery of politics), but think about the possibility of it – what if she did?
Certainly, there are no questions of her likability. She’s known for her charm and subtle wit, which convinces many that if she wanted to, she could supersede Rahul Gandhi. Think about it though, in the realm of cutthroat politics anchored in centuries-old patriarchy, this country has seen some strong women leaders (Indira Gandhi, J Jayalalithaa, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, to name a few), but none of them can be considered strong feminist icons.
Perhaps, it’s time that this country spawns a leader who is a vocal and fierce women’s rights advocate. While it’s commendable that Priyanka highlighted the issue of gender equality, so to speak, at the rally, it would be far more hard-hitting if these issues were talked about more often on other occasions, not only when there were votes to bank on.