Whither Women In politics? Not Puducherry’s BJP

Whither Women In politics? Not Puducherry’s BJP

A Dalit elected from the reserved constituency of Neduncadu, Karaikal, she was the first woman cabinet minister in four decades and the only woman in the cabinet.

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Saturday, October 14, 2023, 12:28 AM IST
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Chandira Priyanga | File pic

When a man wears an expensive hat and worn-out shoes, it is the hat that draws derisive laughter and not the shoes, goes an old saying. This is pretty much what happened with the Bharatiya Janata Party in the southern Union Territory of Puducherry earlier this week when transport minister S Chandira Priyanga resigned from the cabinet. Her resignation was particularly poignant not only because she is the lone woman legislator in the 30-member Assembly in Puducherry but also for her explicitly stated reasons – gender and caste discrimination.

A Dalit elected from the reserved constituency of Neduncadu, Karaikal, she was the first woman cabinet minister in four decades and the only woman in the cabinet. In a statement, she unequivocally said that it was not easy to “overcome the politics of conspiracy…and money power” and she felt “continuously subjected to caste and gender bias”. Priyanga is not alone in this predicament; elected women representatives have voiced such discrimination on many grounds including gender. But what she, unwittingly or otherwise, put her finger on is the gap between the BJP’s professed and propagandised commitment on gender and its unwillingness to translate the lofty principles on the ground where it matters.

Priyanga’s resignation from the local cabinet, without mincing words, calls into focus the loud self-congratulatory tamasha which happened last month over the BJP’s central government’s shepherding the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Parliament to make 33 percent representation a reality at the national and state levels, though years from now. That a party that preened about this was unable to rein in discriminatory forces in a small place like Puducherry shows the party’s fait weather commitment to the issue as much as it points to the enormous task that lies ahead. Women’s participation in representative politics is not merely a function of reserved seats but equally of the atmosphere of equality and non-discrimination, seats reserved on caste basis too follow the same principle. The ugly truth is that women are not welcome.

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