Lack of space for women in Congress

Dear Editor,
With the BJP party in the center since 2014, political scenario across the country have witnessed tremendous changes; from the regional to state politics undergoing tumultuous changes, as swift as overnight. On that line, many of us were reminded of the old phrase commonly borrowed from the Haryana politics (1967), “Aya Ram Gaya Ram”. An expression in politics, meaning frequent floor-crossing by legislatures. The undercurrent in Arunachal Pradesh’s politics has been of a similar kind.
But, one will be baffled to study the socio-cultural impact of this development as well. As a social activist and as a research scholar, I uphold human rights and freedom of expressions, but I constantly felt my rights being compromised, but to me, more important is the idea of, social justice and preservation of our indigenous-tribal rights, which the constitution also guarantees. With the recent bill to reserve 10% for the EB-General category, the CAB Bill 2016 and the PRC policy in AP, I thought the BJP, undermined the countries history and the NE region’s difficult past in particular. Most of all, I know the country was failing in upholding its diverse-cultural ethos. I condemn the prophecy of ‘One nation-one religion-One identity’. Should the BJP come back to power, I am worried.
The INC is the only option given to us time and again even if the regional parties are fairing quite well but not enough. But accept it or not, with our absolute dependence on the center for the all round-state development, we are always at a compromising position which is often manifested in the assembly floor. A strong state-regional party is a prerequisite for a strong representational politics, hindsight.
Now, I want to share my sadness over Jarjum Ete’s resignation from the Indian National Congress (INC) following the denial of Congress ticket from Arunachal West Parliamentary seat. Rahul ji, Kya huwa aapka wada? You have failed to keep your promise, Rahul ji! In all the public gatherings, the Congress President has openly advocated for women’s representation in Indian politics, condemning BJP’s failure in this field. I am also asking the same question to the APCC President Takam Sanjay. Do you think your party under your leadership has taken the right decision to not give Jarjum the MP ticket for the West Parliamentary? If yes, my question is, what will it take to get that ticket/or any leadership role, for aspiring women leaders in the future? The Congress Party has accused of Modi’s government of constant ‘Jumlabhaji’, rhetoric. Then perhaps it is time for the INC and the Arunachal Congress to also reflect inward.
India, the world’s largest democracy has been an utter failure when it comes to women representation in the parliament, let alone those wishing to be a significant part of the ‘game’ . India is sadly at the 103rd place out of 140 countries with a mere 12% representation. Among the Asian countries, India stands at the 13th position out of 18 countries while countries like South Sudan, Saudi Arabia have faired well in bringing women to parliament than India.
The plight of the women leadership is frail in Arunachal, just like the other North-East states. My state Arunachal had only three female leaders in the sixty seats assembly. With the recent release of the BJP party’s candidature from the various constituency, I could see only three women nominated for the April-Lok Sabha elections. I have not seen the INC’s list yet, but we have seen one of the strongest and capable candidate resign from the party.
Why Jarjum?
We have all grown up knowing and appreciating her work, one need not be reminded of her activism and contribution towards the state. We must remember, in speaking and fighting for the women and children, she fought for the marginalised-the under represented. Just like many of us do, elsewhere as a minority in the larger picture. Beyond that, realizing her will and potential do something substantive for the state, she joined the Congress party very early in her life and have never defected unlike the many politicians in the state. Jarjum was the All India Mahila Congress general secretary when she resigned with thirty years of experience in public life. Its heart wrenching to read her letter of resignation, to the APCC president Takam Sanjoy, which read, “The prevailing confusion regarding finalization of party ticket makes it very evident that the INC team is not in coordination to fight the parliamentary election to wrest the seat from the incumbent BJP MP.”
Jarjum in her letter has unwillingly expressed her disappointment and her displeasure of the way state politics operate. She has also shared that the state Congress has always sidelined her right from the beginning. Her resignation speaks more than just a ‘disenchantment’ but a grim reality of the state affairs and the displeasure and unwillingness of the men-leadership in our state, to open the space for women in politics. Her step is a big question and a bigger setback to the idea of a ‘good leadership’ in question. Who is a good leader we must all ask today? Her letter clearly states, “That she was forced to resign from the party as she has been denied nomination even though she had amply made her clear intention to stand for the election last year itself.” I am afraid, I have to state this today that to be a ‘good leader’ in my state Arunachal, one need to tick these boxes; Money, Big house, Power (muscle), Tribe (of a dominant) and of course Men.
For the longest time, we have been socialised to believe that war and power politics are more effectively managed by men while women are ascribed roles in reproduction and homemaking.
Ngurang Reena
Research Scholar,
JNU, Delhi