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Learning email to debating 2G — welcome to BJP Wives’ Club

BJP president Nitin Gadkari’s wife Kanchan Gadkari couldn’t make it this time because she had a function to attend in Nagpur but participation was generally expected to be thinner than usual because of school exam season when the Kamal Sakhi Manch met last evening.

Written by Vandita Mishra | New Delhi |
March 3, 2011 2:30:45 am

BJP president Nitin Gadkari’s wife Kanchan Gadkari couldn’t make it this time because she had a function to attend in Nagpur but participation was generally expected to be thinner than usual because of school exam season when the Kamal Sakhi Manch met last evening.

The meeting,the fourth so far of the one-year-old Manch,in which wives of BJP MPs meet on the sidelines of the Parliament session and the motto is “One Party One Family,” was held at the home of L K Advani. Wife Kamala Advani is its patron.

Yesterday,BJP Mahila Morcha president Smriti Irani joined the Manch,BJP MP Sumitra Mahajan spoke on the Budget and the 2G controversy and there was a screening of Maa,a film by Pratibha Advani. The agenda: “Not to comment on the political direction of events. But to know what is happening around us and to strengthen the bond between us,” says Prachee Javadekar,wife of BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar,and convenor of the Manch.

At 74,Santosh Shailaja,married to veteran BJP leader Shanta Kumar,is the eldest in the group of about 35 women who are Manch regulars,while 33-year-old Indira Patel,wife of Rajasthan MP from Jalore,Devji Mansingram Patel,is the youngest.

There are some professionals like Prachee who headed the Indira Institute of Management in Pune till she launched the Javadekar Education Consultancy Private Limited a year ago — and the rest are homemakers.

“It will take a long time before we reach even the 50 per cent mark of BJP MPs’ wives’ attendance,” says Prachee.

“Many wives don’t come to Delhi at all.” There are other constraints and inhibitions. Like in the case of Panna Devi,who speaks only Gujarati. “Initially she was hesitant”,says Prachee. “But after she attended one meeting,she is a regular”.

It started in early 2010,recalls Prachee,when on her visits to Delhi after her husband became an MP in 2008,she felt that no one knew each other. “MPs know each other but their wives don’t. That gap had to be bridged. After all,she (the wife) manages the husband’s constituency,she has a sense of the grassroots.” She discussed the “idea with Nitinji,Sushmaji” she says,and the Manch was born. It was to be a forum for the male MP’s spouse; husbands of women MPs are not included.

The first Manch meeting on March 11,2010,was brainstorming and decided to focus on three areas: health,education and formation of self-help groups.

At the second meeting on May 4,2010,members were taught how to open e-mail accounts. A fitness training programme was organised at the capital’s Constitution Club.

At the third meeting on August 12,2010,Medha Somaiya,married to former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya,was invited as resource person,to speak to members on the formation of self help groups for “the empowerment of women who will then get associated with the BJP”,says Prachee. Because “eventually we have to think of the consolidation of the party”,she says.

At the third meeting,Arti Mehra,the BJP’s representative on the National Literacy Mission,gave a lecture,suggesting ways in which Manch members can contribute to the implementation of the national programme. “It is not just about criticising government”,says Prachee.

It is not just that the wives of the big BJP leaders are members of the Manch: Yashwant Sinha’s wife Nilima,Rajnath Singh’s wife Savitri and Kalraj Mishra’s wife Satyawati. Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj mingles with Manch members after the brainstorming; at weekly parliamentary party meetings while the session is on,she exhorts all MPs to ensure their wives’ participation in the Manch. A report of the Manch meeting is carried in the party’s in-house journal ‘Kamal Sandesh’.

The next meeting is scheduled to be hosted by Mrs Gadkari. And the Manch’s future? “We will see how it develops” says Prachee. But the idea may be catching on,she suspects. “I heard that after our first meeting,a similar get-together was hosted for Congressmens’ wives.” she says.

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