A recent addition to the cult of the Delhi chief minister is an advertisement with a simple (and simplistic) message: before Arvind Kejriwal, there were bhrashtachar-inflated power bills and life after the messiah has been much easier for the aam aurat. She is a housewife, our Everywoman, and, remarkably for Indian political messaging, she is seen in the advertisement to be mulling and making a political choice — without any prompting from her entirely sedentary husband. Yet, what it gives with one hand, it taketh away with the other.
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It pitches this thinking, political animal in an unequal domestic space, where all the housework is hers, and the leisure belongs to the man. We see her always on her feet: she drops her child to school, buys vegetables from the vendor, cooks a meal and serves it to her husband, who hasn’t moved from his seat in front of the telly, all the while wondering why it is that everyone likes to “target” her favourite politician: “humara Arvind”. That is, of course, the reality of millions of women’s lives, who run the wheels of the world with their unpaid labour.
It is especially the reality in Delhi, where women work participation rates are one of the lowest among Indian cities. But that the Aam Aadmi Party government would choose to represent it, without being in the least troubled by this obvious inequality and injustice, that it chose not to imagine women and men otherwise — as sanitation workers or as teachers, as co-workers in the kitchen — deserves to be called out.
The man who looms over the ad is, of course, Kejriwal. He is the saviour come to redeem a corrupt city, even if he is thwarted by forces of evil. This is a government ad that reduces the elaborate process of governance to a superhero syndrome. To those who have watched the AAP’s broad coalition of ideas and activism shrink into a one-man show, this should come as no surprise.