Maryam Nawaz Sharif and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are both daughters of famous leaders, so why is it that they aren’t much more active in politics?
It is clear that Priyanka’s active campaigning for her brother, Rahul, saved the day for the Congress vice-president in Amethi in the recently held general elections. He won by a margin of 107,000 votes, whereas the last time around in 2009, he had won by more than 300,000 votes. The resentment against Rahul Gandhi was quite palpable this time around, around the fact that he hardly visits his constituency, and when he does, it is to travel in an air-conditioned SUV, which hardly lends itself to touching and feeling and hearing the travails of your constituents.
And then there was Priyanka Gandhi, who broke away from her security detail and lectured the BJP, hugging and kissing village women and babies, and speaking such good Hindi that it left journalists flummoxed with the comparison with her brother. How is it that Rahul is unable to connect in the same way that his sister does?
As for young Maryam, her tweeting of the Narendra Modi-Nawaz Sharif meeting in Delhi, where she wasn’t present but her brother Hussain was, provided a readout that was closest to what had transpired, both in the delegation-level talks as well as in the one-on-one conversation. But the fact remains that it wasn’t Maryam, but Hussain, who took that flight to Delhi with their father.
In Priyanka’s case, the jury has been out for a while: She adores her mother and brother, and is not about to do anything that will hurt them. Since Sonia wanted her son, rather than her daughter — and which Italian/Indian mother worth her salt wouldn’t?—– to inherit the party, well, that’s what happened. Meanwhile, Priyanka had already married Robert Vadra, a businessman from Moradabad.
It seems Priyanka loves her husband a lot, which is what many wives are wont to do. She is certainly not abandoning him in a hurry, like Indira Gandhi did Feroze Gandhi, and returned to live with her father. The problem is that Robert Vadra has been the subject of several stories in recent months, about his alleged inside knowledge in the conversion of land in the region around Delhi, which allegedly resulted in him making large sums of money. The question is if the Modi government will go after Vadra. If it does, and if he is indicted, what will Priyanka do?
And then there’s the question of the obviously bright and almost luminous Maryam, who clearly out of the lot of Bhuttos and Sharifs seems the most interested in Pakistani politics. Question is, is she being groomed by her father or are her brothers?
Both India and Pakistan have had several women at the top. And yet, all these women have refused to use the instrument of politics to better the lot of women in their respective countries. They have all played the game as their male colleagues in politics have wanted it played.
Much has been made about the seven women in Modi’s Cabinet (Nirmala Sitharaman is minister, independent charge, of the Commerce ministry, which technically puts her outside the Cabinet), and the fact that he wants to send a message of egalitarianism down the line. In which case, people like Babulal Gaur, home minister in the Madhya Pradesh government, should do public penance for his remarks on rape.
Meanwhile, on the Congress front, it is clear that the longer Priyanka takes to formally join politics, or at least, keep her name alive by participating in political activities, the longer she will take to become a power to be reckoned with. India is changing so fast that the Gandhi name, especially after Rahul, is no longer a magic potion that can dramatically change the landscape.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2014.
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