June 18, 2007

"She's a woman," "This is tokenism," yakkety yakkety yak...

Why is Pratibha Patil's nomination such a hoo-haa issue? To the best of my (admittedly poor) knowledge:

1. No one raised a hue and cry when Sonia Gandhi was set to become PM (in spite of her track record being considerably shorter than Ms. Patil's). In fact, the "woman" issue was not even raised. Please explain. Does being a part of the Nehru lineage make you a natural choice for PM? Even, pardon me, if you're Italian?

2. Nobody talks about tokenism when it comes to Sonia Gandhi or Mayawati (even though Sonia Gandhi stands for tokenism of a different kind - the political lineage kind). There are women in Parliament, in the states, and in every goddam place. What's the shock at having a woman President?

3. Pratibha Patil is as good (or as okay) as the rest. Clean record, educated, but quite frankly nothing extraordinary (as Kalam was). So what? Is Bhaironsingh Shekhawat extraordinary? Is anyone else? People like Kalam are few and far between, especially in the world of politics. I myself would love for Kalam to continue for a 2nd term. But now that he won't, we must be clear about one thing - just because we have once had a Kalam, our standards may rise, but the chances of another person of the same stature are close to nil. I don't see another highly qualified nuclear scientist up for public service with full support anywhere in the near future.

Bottomline: We need a President who is neutral, incorruptible, and strong enough to take a stand (I used to love the way Kalam returned bills to the Parliament.) If it's a woman, so be it. If there's a man who can do these things better, make him President. "It's high time we had a woman President" is no argument. "We want the best possible candidate," naturally, is.

Also - what's with all the faff about a woman President being able to address women's issues much better? Did Indira Gandhi achieve more than ordinary success with women's issues? Did the women of Bihar be empowered under Rabri Devi? When a CM or PM can't bring these changes, why push for a woman President on the grounds of "women's issues will be solved"? Women's issues in India are wide-ranging, ingrained and will take a few more decades (at least) to solve - right from foeticide to dowry to domestic violence to harassment to discrimination and the proverbial glass ceilings. No President, PM, CM, MLA, MP, blah blah blah is going to be able to solve them with quick-fix solutions because there are no quick-fix solutions. Putting a woman in the chair ensures nothing unless she is the best person for the job.

Agreed, she was nominated the wrong way. Agreed, she seems like the bottom of the heap, the last option, etc etc. Basic point - if she's good, why not? Conversely, if someone else is better, why Ms Patil?

Why must we cloud simple issues with complex gender factors? Don't put her forward if the only reason for putting her forward is her gender. And don't oppose her nomination if she is, indeed, the best person for the job.

Also overheard on We The People - someone says the ladies in UPA and ladies in media should have campaigned properly for Ms. Patil. When a male President is proposed, is it just male party members or male mediapersons who lobby? Why is it in our country that a man is a person, but a woman is a woman?

To all those who say that Ms. Patil's Presidential nomination is a safe choice, a political choice, a manipulative choice, a default choice, a random choice, (insert other criticism here), I'd just like to say - it always is. As long as they bring in someone who doesn't fall asleep in the Rashtrapati Bhavan or sign everything that the ruling party sets before him/her, and as long as he/she does a good job of opposing wrong, politically-motivated decisions, welcome them in.

P.S. This issue comes under the head of non-issues. But I just watched a heated 1-hour debate on NDTV on this which made no sense whatsoever, so I hoped writing it down would help me clear it out in my own mind. Someone please answer - what the hell is our problem with pure meritocracies? Be it here, in Parliament, or in educational institutes - why must we reserve and reserve and reserve?

P.P.S. Women's reservation in Parliament - &#%&@#* is all I can say. The ones who are there are not significantly better than their male counterparts, nor significantly more effective in tackling female illiteracy, dowry, assault or the millions of other problems faced by Indian women. So bringing in more is not gonna help.

P.P.P.S. On a different track, have cleared the CPT with a decent score. (Relevant story - guy with exact same marks says he's 23rd in the country. If true, so am I. That brings illusory happiness but there's no corroborating proof so let's consider it pure nonsense.)