'Nari Shakti' in Lok Sabha polls
With Priyanka Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, and Mayawati leading the charge, upcoming elections will see women take centre stage
The upcoming Lok Sabha elections are extremely significant for all parties. You can tell by the crescendo of the politicking that the upcoming battle will be bitterly fought by all players. There is a lot at stake for all parties. For the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo, this is a chance to cement their position in history. Another five-year term would mean a bounty for BJP which has never yet been elected to power successively. Yet another tenure would set the political narrative and economic tunes of the nation to BJP's beat. The question, however, remains if this party will be able to repeat the thundering mandate of 2014 or would require the aid of allies such as the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), and Janata Dal (United) (JD(U).
These general elections are pivotal for the motley group of regional parties as they aim to cobble together a Federal Front and throw their hat into the ring for the 17th Lok Sabha. While defeating the BJP is at the heart of their efforts through a unified charge against the saffron party in all states, there are also personal ambitions of powerful regional leaders at play. After years of discussing the Third Front, this time around, the state parties seem most united, rushing from state to state to offer support, standing together on the same dais, and jointly unleashing lethal attacks against the current political dispensation. This kind of solidarity was best witnessed when West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress matriarch, Mamata Banerjee, took on the might of the both Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Centre last week. This time around, their chances are as it good as it can ever get, hopefully with Congress joining forces too.
For Congress, the upcoming Lok Sabha elections are 'make or break'. After being decimated in 2014, Congress has patiently waited for the current government to fumble. The grand old party's desperation or perhaps eagerness to oust BJP got them to bring out their ace card – Priyanka Gandhi. While the Gandhi scion has previously campaigned for her mother, brother and the Congress party several times, her formal entry into politics signals Congress' seriousness to get their act right. With the important charge of Uttar Pradesh being bestowed upon her, Priyanka has her work cut out in the state that has the maximum number of seats (80) in the Parliament. Also, on the Congress' mind are the massive blows to the party's legacy dealt by BJP in the last five years; another term could mean political suicide for Congress.
Interestingly though, with all parties having so much to lose (and gain), it will be 'nari shakti' (women power) ruling the roost in the coming months. Priyanka Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, and Mayawati will be at the forefront of the attack against BJP. Priyanka's easy charm and uncanny resemblance to her grandmother, Indira Gandhi, are not the only factors that she brings to the table. An astute politician, Priyanka has been watching from the wings for years. And now as she enters 24, Akbar Road as General Secretary, she means business.
Mamata has already proven that she has the audacity and experience to take on the strength of the ruling party and she will not easily relinquish her home turf (West Bengal with its 42 seats) to BJP. Mayawati too is on a comeback mission. After being wiped out in 2014 in spite of recording the third largest vote share, she too has quietly been consolidating her support base in the Hindi heartland. Her chances seem certain enough to make other parties welcome her with open arms into their states. The more seats that the Federal Front wins, the better their claim to the throne.
While this trio sharpens its sword for the imminent attack and protects its coterie from onslaughts by government investigative agencies, BJP, on its part, will sorely miss strong women leaders in its camp. Sushma Swaraj has already bowed out of this year's Lok Sabha polls and 'saas bahu' sop star, Smriti Irani, and India's first woman Raksha Mantri Nirmala Sitharaman are not enigmatic enough to challenge PMM (Priyanka, Mamata, Mayawati). The other leaders in NDA are not even worth mentioning. The PMM trio would most importantly also attract women voters, becoming the first Lok Sabha clash where women leaders will finally assume centre-stage.
(The writer is a journalist and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)