Madam President

So Pratibha Patil is President. Yoo hoo for womenkind and all that. Or not? Considering that the role of the President in India is largely ceremonial, I don’t per se have an issue with making it a token of some kind. So we had a Dalit president, we had a Muslim president, and now, a Woman president. Fair enough – its a token to show that we take equality issues seriously. Though most of the time, it remains just that. A token. Now even if we need a token, I would prefer something that represented Indian women at their best, not an average, middling sort of specimen.

I wish we had chosen someone more well known for her own achievements. That would truly mean something, if we had someone like Sheila Dikshit, for example, though its very likely that her strong stances on many issues mean someone like her will never be chosen. Yes, Pratibha Patil has been in politics long enough, but she just doesn’t seem to have done anything significant in her time. Plus ofcourse all the attendant controversies thats probably a first in a Indian presidential race. (So yes, she has done something significant now!). On the whole, it looks like she was mainly rewarded for her loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi family, and yes, when it comes to devotion to them, you can never have too much, can you.

I particularly like Amrita’s piece on the whole drama, written a few weeks ago, (before the scandals broke), where she says, “This isn’t a blow for women’s rights, it’s an act of condescension. It’s the political equivalent of getting a pat on the head, a couple of sweeties to eat and then being told to run along and be good.”

Sigh.

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13 Comments

  1. well said. n Thanks for the link to Amrita’s.
    I feel a non-political figure would probably be the best choice – someone who represents the ‘citizen’ part more than the (political)’first’.

    I have been so disappointed by the Indian political scenario lately that I’ve avoided reading “anything” about it for some time now, but this new development is interesting. Can’t wait to see who would be the next in line, with Marathi-sm, Nehru/Sonia-ism and Gender being a qualification good enough to rule over a nation of 1 billion. Quite a tough standard to maintain, eh?

  2. Tks. Actually I dont feel a non-political person is a necessity as such. Even among the political class, there should be ‘some’ people who have done something worthwhile, or is that too much to ask for!

  3. Thanks – this is so interesting because everyone on US / UK feminist blogs is hailing it as a wonderful achievement and a uniformly positive thing. It’d be nice if we had a sufficient weight of female politicians and leaders that we could just do that, instead of everyone being a “first” or having to be grateful just because they’re there, even if they’re hopeless or politically disgusting to you.

  4. I don’t doubt that there are politicians, many of them women, who have done a lot for the lot. More than Madam President maybe. My concern is mainly for the political/social cleanliness of the person who represents an entire nation. With politics being the way it is in India(or anywhere else), it would be very difficult for a person to reach the top without using the proven tactics of ‘winning’. If we have a choice from among the political class, well and good. unfortunately, I personally can not think of a name.

  5. pumpkin – that is so true! we have such poor representation that we need to cheer for the poorest of specimens!

    sparsh – i get you…the paucity is frightening, isnt it..

  6. couldnt agree with you more. i’d rather have a male president than this token gesture and make a fool of ourselves in public. talking to dead godmen indeed. sometimes i feel we’re moving backwards instead of forward.

  7. […] a token, Apu thinks Pratibha Patil is an ‘average, middling sort of specimen’: So Pratibha Patil is […]

  8. there isn’t reason enough to get pissed.

    the Dalit prez you called a token set the most important precedents in independent India’s history. Yes, maybe his ascension was a token, but he made us all proud.

    Patil, on the face of it, is qualified for the job. I do believe she is better than Kalam – then its a personal opinion. The way she messed up a bill as Rajasthan governor shows she’s got the stuff and knowledge of the constitution to get around things.

    If she was not a rubber stamp governor, we should give her the benefit of doubt that she wont be a rubber stamp prez.

    Now if she proves to be one of the best India had (like Narayanan), pbly consider her a woman of substance then. Thats a fair deal right.

  9. btw nice space, will haunt 🙂

    came thru the Blogbharti link

    thanks 🙂

  10. bvn – welcome and see you again!

    pissed is a strong word – i am probably more disppointed at not seeing someone with a stronger record; however i think you got me wrong on the token – i dont believe there is anything wrong in a president being symbolic of something, he/she is a ceremonial post anyways. now, if the token can also achieve something, that is great, and as far as mrs.patil is concerned, i feel while i wouldnt say that she can never do something, her record isnt impressive.

  11. well guess i got you wrong on the token, on a re read. but who? (not Dixit)

  12. […] no link between the two events, but it is strange to note that just as we gained a female president (though controversially), the country’s top IPS officer claims gender bias in promotions at the highest […]

  13. bvn – who, who, who! tough, isnt it. (and why not dixit? i think she is one of the most action oriented politicians around) also, if there is no worthwhile contender, why not a male politician? i dont see the need to place a woman there at any cost…


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