Between Bodek KING KIMMA Datuk Syed Ibrahim Kader and Niat chairman Thasleem Mohamed Ibrahim Al-Haj who can fight better for the Indian Muslim Rights

Amma J Jayalalithaa brings change; but has she changed? THE FATE OF INDIAN MUSLIMS NARENDRA MODI WHO BURNED THE MUSLIMS ALIVE IS THE SPEACIAL GUEST

The favourite colour of her sari has changed from green to pink, magenta and maroon, but has she really changed her colours? That was the question doing the rounds on Monday as J Jayalalithaa was sworn in the chief minister of Tamil Nadu for the fourth time. This is the third time since 1991 that her party AIADMK has won the elections, but technically she became the chief minister four times, as she had to relinquish the post for a few months between 2001 and 2002 owing to a corruption case.
 A change in Jaya  has different connotations to different people. For her political rivals, it means whether she would be as vindictive as she was during 2001- 2006. For the media, it means whether she would continue to be intolerant to criticism. For the public, it means whether she would be as ostentatious as she was in the 1990s. For the bureaucracy, it means whether she would be as meticulous in administrative matters as she has always been.
Jayalalithaa

THE MAN WHO BURNEDTHE MUSLIMS ALIVE GUJARAT CHIEF MINISTER NARENDRA MODI IS THE SPEACIAL GUEST OF JAYALALITHAA WHO READIES TEAM OF MINISTERS

Gujarat cop Sanjeev Bhatt’s revelations, contained in his affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, may come as a surprise to many. But for all those who lived in Gujarat during those fateful days and were in the thick of things, the contents only provide substantiation of what they had heard then. A top police officer of the state told me a couple of days after the riots started how director general of poice K Chakravarthy was uncomfortable on being told by Narendra Modi at a meeting to allow Hindus to vent their feelings.Though perturbed, Chakravarthy, a naturally timid person, could not muster the guts to stand up to his boss. So, instead he lamented to top police officers like the person to whom I had spoken. Or at least that is what the officer told me.

images of a Genocide: Muslim burnt
It was also being speculated that not only had “Hindus” been allowed to vent their feelings, they had been given “three days” to do this. Then defence minister George Fernandes who had been sent to Ahmedabad by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee also knew of this “three days” and I personally can vouch for this. With a view to figure out what he was up to, I had called on Fernandes on Saturday, March 2, 2002, in Circuit House in Ahmedabad. Initially, I had some apprehension about how much time the minister would give me because he was on a mission and the riots were on full blast. But I was pleasantly surprised that he had all the time in the world for me. Very soon I could figure out the purpose Fernandes was so keen to engage me in conversation: he wanted to cross-check the facts of the riots that he had heard. It was a long three-hour meeting. At one point the chief secretary, G Subba Rao, and additional chief secretary Ashok Narain, along with a senior army officer, came into the room. They had been confabulating with the minister before I dropped in. Leaving them behind, Fernandes took me to his room. Now the officials wanted to know if they should wait or could leave. The minister asked them to leave and resumed his conversation with me. Fernandes spoke about a whole lot of things, how Ahmedabad had changed, how he had come to the city when there was a massive riot in 1969, how he had walked to the Governor Shriman Narayan’s house from the airport at that time, etc. With the evening advancing and the need for me to go back to the office, I excused myself. Fernandes persisted but I went out. As I climbed down the stairs, the defence minister beckoned me once again from the top of the stairs and said that I should have dinner with him. In the end, I retraced my path. While having an early dinner, Fernandes who was beating around the bush for so long suddenly let it out: “ I have heard that the rioters have been allowed three days time before any action is taken?” I shot back: “ Ya, I have also heard it.” The minister said: “Humm. I see.” We continued on the dinner silently. I must admit that there was no talk about the Modi meet about which Sanjiv Bhatt has now filed an affidavit. But very soon our meeting was broken. Harin Pathak, the minister of state for defence and the BJP MP from Ahmedabad and a hardliner himself, walked into the room with decisive steps and plonked himself on the sofa. In the manner that he walked in it seemed that Pathak was aware that we were having a long meeting and wanted to be privy to the conversation. Immediately after the dinner, I left the place.
A couple of months later, the Outook magazine ran an exclusive report on a serving minister of the Gujarat government having deposed before a citizens’ commission about the Modi meeting on the evening of January 27 where the chief minister had talked about allowing the Hindu reaction. The minister was not named but I instinctively knew that it was Haren Pandya. So I called Pandya and said: “So you tendered evidence before the commission?” Pandya demanded: “How do you know?” I said: “I can make out because you have told me this before. Though I am not sure about others because there is some speculation that it is Suresh Mehta ( another minister). But I am sure your boss Modi can make out too.” The minister said in a dismissive tone: “Who cares about him.” Then I told Pandya: “But your testimony is second hand. Why don’t you get me somebody who attended the meeting and confirm this to me?” Pandya thought for a moment and replied: “Chakravarthi (director general of police ) can.” I told him: “I don’t know him. But since you were close to him and once were his boss as home minister, why don’t you set up a meeting.” Pandya said: “Let me get back to you.” He was back on the line in 10 minutes. “I have spoken with him. Here is his cell number. You have to ask him the questions but he will answer only in yes or no. He is not willing to go any further.” OK, I said and kept down the phone. In the event I did not call up Chakravarthi. The reason: I had written an article for the edit page about the guilty men of Gujarat and had named Chakravarthi and this was going to appear in the paper the next day. I did not think it morally right to get information from a source one day and next day publish an article that would put him on the mat. Moreover, the prospect on a yes or no answer did not appeal to me.
A few months later when I came to know of the names of officers who were present at that fateful meeting, I asked one of them about what had transpired. The officer, Anil Mukim, then private secretary to Modi and now a joint secretary to GOI told me: “Not while I was there.” My specific query was: “Did Modi say that a Hindu reaction be allowed?”. I noted from media reports recently that this is also exactly what Mukim told the SIT on the Gujarat riots. If I recollect correctly Ashok Narayan, the additional chief secretary (home) who had attended the meeting told the Nanavati Commission that there were instructions that the bodies of all those perished in the Godhra train carnage be allowed to be brought to Ahmedabad. This is what Sanjiv Bhatt has also said as part of his affadavit about what had transpired at the meeting.
Incidentally, it seems that on the evening of February 27 there were two meetings that had been convened by Modi. The first one was a law and order meeting with top cops and secretaries, which Sanjiv Bhatt is supposed to have attended. The other was a meeting of ministers. Haren Pandya had told me that at this meeting some of the ministers said that the bodies of those who died in the Godhra carnage be brought to Ahmedabad. Haren said that he resisted because he felt that this could lead to an outpouring of sentiments leading to a serious law and order situation. Pandya said that he was outshouted at the meeting and mentioned a minister (I am withholding the name, but it was not Modi) who said that this is what we want. “Our party strength is in Ahmedabad. We want everything to happen here. It will help our party.”
Haren Pandya was murdered under mysterious circumstances in early 2003, so he cannot come back to life to testify whatever is attributed to him by me. I am acutely aware of this. I am also aware that George Fernandes is suffering from Alzhiemer’s, a disease that robs its patients of all his memories.
The midnight arrest of M Karunanidhi on June 30, 2001 still sends shivers down the spine of DMK leaders. They hope the AIADMK Amma has turned mellower. The 2001 comeback Jaya  was not kind to the media either. Soon after taking over as the chief minister, reporters had a virtual street fight with her police after her cavalcade threatened to run over reporters who tried to block it in front of the secretariat after she refused to accept a memorandum from them.More than a hundred journalists who protested against this were rounded up and kept for a day in a police station on June 29, 2001. That might have been a strategy, as she might have thought that the famished journalists released that evening would go to bed tired and wake up late the next morning when her police could drag the DMK leaders from their bedrooms. That was not to be. At the first call from Karunanidhi’s residence, the scribes were there, in the wee hours, to witness the police atrocity. Those reporters who refused to be cowed down and continued to write hard-hitting stories against the government’s high-handedness on several fronts were served with legal notices and defamation cases by the dozen. Towards the fag end of that tenure, however, Jaya did mellow down. This phase also saw some welfare measures.If there is something in Jaya that nobody wants to change, it is her efficiency in dealing with the bureaucracy. When she is the chief minister, civil servants and other officers know they cannot bluff. Jaya does her homework well and expects her officers to do the same. And when it comes to law and order, she is a no-nonsense administrator. During her previous tenures, goons had kept their date with the bullet. Self-proclaimed human rights groups had fumed; many others had sighed.

That active Jaya is what Tamil Nadu, on the cusp of a fast-paced development, needs. It would do well if the chief minister doesn’t allow her cadre’s inherent sycophancy to inflate her megalomania. To start with, she could withdraw the case against Penguin and lift the stay on her new biography authored by Vaasanthi, ‘Jayalalithaa—A Portrait’.

Namaskaram Amma. Nomoshkaar Didi. Congratulations ladies ! Bhalo khobor! You’ve done it and deserve the applause. To borrow Mayawati’s words, the time for ‘dramabaazi’ is over. You have won. The people of your respective states have given the verdict . Jai ho, and all that. Your time begins now. Showing the door to rivals is the easy part. Both of you can confidently take the oath, look and feel smug… and if you so wish, dance in the streets or on the posters of your vanquished opponents. No doubt your myriad followers will join you with abundant joy. Gloat away! But this is about your future agendas – especially those involving your own gender . What specific policies will you be working on that will benefit the women of your state, and maybe even, women across India ? Come on, you two. You can do it! Mamata has spoken eloquently about the appalling conditions faced by rural women in West Bengal. She has said she wants to create infrastructure for underprivileged pregnant women, who are forced to walk up to 15 km to deliver babies. Well, action it, Didi. Get those clinics to happen, taara-taari .
It cannot be a significantly better scenario in Tamil Nadu. We are also aware of the ‘corporate bladder’ syndrome (no loos for working women in urban India ), but for how many more years will our village women have to wait for the protective cover of darkness before they can ‘go’ ? These may look like chhota-mota issues to powerful politicians in search of bigger issues to tom- tom – like attracting instant foreign investment. But please don’t take women’s bladders and wombs for granted ! We need clean facilities. Period . Whether it’s maternity wards in which to deliver babies , or conveniently located latrines that are safe for use, day and night. This is not a tall order, but it is an urgent one. If this initiative can be announced and undertaken on a priority basis by both of you, you will win the whole-hearted support of countless deprived women who have put up with painful urinary tract infections, botched births by the roadside and other related horror stories for decades …no, centuries.
The women of India have waited long enough. Too long. So far, their voices, their expectations , their anxieties were of zero consequence to successive governments. Much was expected from Pratibha Patil as president . Much more was hoped for from Sonia Gandhi. No miracles . No waving of magic wands. Just simple plans and projects that would have made it easier for women to hang in there and be counted. Nothing of any consequence was announced by either one of them unfortunately, and women meekly went back to the starting post to patiently begin their vigil all over again. Perhaps it’s not such a good thing that our women are passive . We let off our netas a bit too easily. We make far too many concessions.
Mamata’s win was largely based on “poribartan’ ’ (change). But there was little mention in her manifesto of gender-specific policies that would be beneficial to women. As the railways minister, her track record was disappointing at a time when women travellers cried out for safety on trains. Mamata’s perceived indifference to the woes of women commuters was seen as being callous and shortsighted.
Ditto for Jayalalithaa, whose past record isn’t exactly impressive with regards to women’s issues. If anything, Amma remained aloof and indifferent when confronted. This time, she didn’t bother wooing women or men, for that matter.
In fact, she didn’t woo anybody! She didn’t have to. Her old foes (the DMK gang led by the old war horse Karunanidhi) obliged Amma by committing hara-kiri while she romped home, without lifting a finger. Our female politicians are street smart and canny. They have been told by their minders that raising women’s issues during elections is not politically wise. It alienates men! And political pundits have consistently insisted it’s men who are the real game changers in any election. The big numbers are driven by men. Why bother courting women? Today, we are crowing about four important women leading four important states of India. Forget, the most important woman in the country (you-know-who ). It’s time to ask a few uncomfortable questions of these chaar deviyaan. Starting with Sheila Dikshit and Mayawati, who have been around long enough to have got things moving. But their mahila gaadisstalled a long time ago and refused to change gear, as these two steamrolled their way past other, more criticalto-survival obstacles, conveniently forgetting all about their less-privileged sisters.
It’s a terrible fact of life, but the bitter truth is that women in politics have not leveraged their position to do anything substantial for other women. Perhaps, those vintage Ekta Kapoor serials had a point –which is why they worked. But even Ekta has moved on and away from those dreary subjects to sexier ones. Why can’t our female politicians do the same? This is their chance to win the loyalty of what is, in reality , their core constituency – women. Woo us with policies that transform lives and you’ll never have to worry about your warm kursi going to someone else. Neglect us now… and watch! Just you watch! We’ll show you! Remember , there is no ‘next time’ in politics. Mind it!
The rise of ‘Muslims-for-Muslim-parties’ will polarise the polity and vitiate the atmosphere. At this stage, when India is poised for fast economic growth, the country cannot afford the growth of communal parties with their narrow self-serving agendas. The point can be broadened to state that identity politics of any kind is pernicious. India has a secular Constitution, and only secular parties should be permitted to operate. That’s the best way for India to keep the scourge of communalism at bay.
Embedded in the electoral success of outfits like Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF inAssam and the Muslim League in Kerala is the dangerous trend of communalism raising its head again in Indian politics. It is too simplistic to dismiss the rise of these narrow religion-based parties as part and parcel of India’s democratic process. On the contrary, their success doesn’t augur well for the Union. It may lead to increased fissiparous tendencies.
Let’s not forget that communal politics has tormented India on numerous occasions. In the past, it created havoc in the form of partition of the subcontinent on religious lines. India had to be partitioned because of fears planted in the minds of the minority community by the Muslim League. Moreover, the League succeeded in areas where the minority population was concentrated. The present trend is on similar lines, as these fringe parties have done well in regions where minority populations are concentrated. A party like AIUDF, which made its debut in the 2006 assembly elections with 10 seats, has increased its tally to 18 this time, catapulting it into the position of the second largest party in Assam. Its success is based on a narrow agenda of the welfare of immigrant Muslim settlers. Likewise, in Kerala, the Muslim League won 20 out of 24 seats in minority-dominated constituencies.
DMDK leader Vijayakanth addresses the media
at his party office
in Chennai after the AIADMK-led alliance registered
a win in the assembly elections.
No two women are more different or more alike than Jayalalitha & Mamata Banerjee, both victors by landslide majorities yesterday. Both come from humble backgrounds, have fought long and hard as outsiders in a world that has been implacably opposed to them and both have shunned dependence on others, particularly, men. Both have learned to become fiercely individualistic, rising above their many constraints and limitations, by being utterly driven and focused on their goals. And both make bad enemies. 

And yet, the story of Mamata Banerjee and J Jayalalitha could not be more different. Jayalalitha came to power on the back of a powerful man, before proceeding to become her own person. Her sense of individuality came from a deep sense of grievance at the many personal injustices she was subjected to. In many ways, Jayalalitha represents herself more than anyone else, and has succeeded in turning her perpetual quest for redress into a successful political cause. Her strength comes from her great insight into understanding that in large parts of India, and certainly in Tamil Nadu, political leaders need to act as if they were anointed rulers by divine decree. It is by understanding this that she has turned her potential drawbacks into advantages. She is otherwise an outsider to Tamil Nadu, a Brahmin in a Dravidian world, a convent educated, English-speaking oddity, and of course a woman. 

The key to her success is not her representativeness, but its opposite. She is someone who looks like a credible ruler and certainly acts like one. Her victory exudes the sense of ruler’s triumphant return from exile rather than a successful campaign aimed at wooing at the hearts and minds of the voters. Her success is not because of any particular set of principles or even any specifically resonant promises, but merely part of the inexorable cycle that seems to be at work in Tamil Nadu where after a few seasons, one set of deities is ritually replaced by another. 

The victory of Mamata Bannerjee on the other hand presents a completely different picture. Although she too like Jayalalitha, is a cauldron of smouldering resentments, in her case she very clearly represents something other than herself. She embodies the fragmented anger of the ordinary citizen, refracted through the prism of the callous indifference of the political establishment. It is striking that she has won by representing the people more successfully than the CPM, a party whose ideology is ostensibly precisely and almost exclusively about standing for the downtrodden. It is a testimony to her ability to effortlessly and credibly carry in her persona, the disappointments of a much larger body of people, that she is one of the very few female politicians that have emerged as leaders without any legacy whatsoever. It is instructive that she is called Didi to Jayalalitha’s Amma, for her relationship with her constituency is better captured as a relationship based on kinship rather than authority. But if Mamata represents those she leads with great fidelity, unlike Jayalalitha, she has shown little ability to rule, and little interest in developing a broader vision of governance, going by her unspectacular performance as a minister. Her political life has moved from tantrum to more improbable tantrum, without showing an ability to gather her rage into a meaningful plan of action. 

It is a study in contrasts. One a controlled, often vengeful upper class ruler, driven by a personal agenda who revels in creating distance between herself and others and other a fountain of hyper-emotional torrent of indignation, living the life of those she leads and feeling their fractured and often incoherent rage. One completely at home with the trappings of power while the other forever at odds with those in power. For one power is an intensely satisfying entitlement that visits her periodically whereas for the other it is the culmination of a lifelong quest, leaving in its wake a sense of emptiness, for all the investment has so far been made in overthrowing the powerful rather than in exercising power. Both look and sound different and both are associated with their own very articulate symbols — one wears a cape and the other hawai chappals. 

Jayalalitha’s cape tells the story of a woman who has learned to rule by keeping everything close to the chest and under wraps. It is a shroud of significance, a cloak that marks very sharply drawn boundaries between her and everything else. For someone whose journey has been marked with bouts of humiliation and active marginalization, the need to put distance between herself and anyone capable of wielding power over her has been a pronounced one. The need is to place herself above the reach of other people’s power, either by towering over all else in her avatar as an oversized cut-out or by wearing a mark of royalty, an insignia of superhumanhood by way of a cape. 

Mamata Banerjee’s hawai chappals mark her out as an eternal pedestrian, flip-flopping her way through busy streets and unruly crowds. They speak of a comfort with ordinariness and the desire to remain free of any confining structures. Along with her one room house and her crumpled sarees, they capture Mamata’s disinterest in the pursuit of a power as a means to any personal end just as they point to an unwillingness to be part of any established structure with hierarchies and rules. 

In some ways, both victories underline the power of democracy in India in that in both cases governments perceived to be inefficient or corrupt have been thrown out. Perhaps Mamata’s victory is more significant in this respect as it vindicates the representative nature of electoral politics in the country. And while the two women may share very different outlooks towards power, with one awkward with the prospect of ruling and other revelling in it, neither seem particularly interested in the question of governance. For all the significance we might see in these wins, in the larger context perhaps not much has changed.

Muhyiddin Yassin says Najib has hired Niat chairman Thasleem Mohamed Ibrahim Al-Ha to Discredit him and Force him to Resign as The Education Minister



KUALA LUMPUR, 17 Mei — Datuk Syed Ibrahim Kader, Presiden Kongres India Muslim Malaysia (Datuk Syed Ibrahim Kader), parti politik sahabat BN, dilantik sebagai ahli Dewan Negara dan dijangka akan mengangkat sumpah dalam beberapa hari.

The Malaysian Insider difahamkan, Syed Ibrahim (gambar), 57, telah menerima surat pelantikan sebagai senator minggu lalu.

“Saya diberitahu Syed Ibrahim telah menerima surat lantikan tersebut Khamis lalu dan tarikh bila akan sumpah akan diketahui esok.

“Syed Ibrahim menerima lantikan tersebut dengan hati terbuka, namun saya difahamkan beliau tidak mahu perkara ini didedahkan terlebih dahulu,” kata sumber ketika dihubungi.

Syed Ibrahim ketika dihubungi The Malaysian Insider enggan mengulas sambil meminta agar menunggu sehingga tarikh angkat sumpah.

Jelas sumber itu, Syed Ibrahim hanya akan membuat kenyataan berhubung pelantikan itu selepas mengangkat sumpah.

Ini merupakan kali pertama wakil Kimma dilantik sebagai ahli Dewan Negara. Kimma ditubuhkan pada 1976.

Penghujung tahun lalu, Syed Ibrahim memohon kerajaan melantik seorang senator daripada kalangan anggota parti itu untuk mewakili kaum India Muslim negara ini.

Beliau berkata, ini kerana parti itu tidak mempunyai saluran untuk bersuara secara langsung terutama bagi menyuarakan masalah kaum India Muslim terus kepada kerajaan.

Selain itu Syed Ibrahim berkata, Kimma juga memohon kepada kerajaan agar wakil India Muslim ditempatkan di Majlis Kerajaan Negeri dan Majlis Kerajaan Tempatan supaya mereka dapat menyalurkan masalah kaum itu kepada pihak berwajib serta mendapat maklumat tentang peluang perniagaan dan perdagangan di dalam mahupun di luar negara.

Beliau juga menyarankan agar kerajaan mewujudkan satu dana khas perniagaan untuk industri kecil dan sederhana dan peniaga kecil India Muslim untuk memudahkan peniaga kecil itu mendapat dana pusingan modal bagi memulakan atau membesarkan perniagaan.

Kimma yang mendakwa ada 80,000 ahli negara telah menyatakan hasrat untuk menyertai BN semenjak 1984 tetapi gagal ekoran bantahan komponennya termasuk oleh MIC.

Ogos lepas, Umno bersetuju menerima Kimma sebagai anggota bergabung parti itu dengan beberapa keistimewaan seperti dijemput hadir sebagai pemerhati dalam perhimpunan agung dan persidangan di peringkat bahagian sekiranya parti itu mempunyai keanggotaan di kawasan berkenaan

Calcutta was capital till 1911& still is, in the Urdu primer


Mamata Banerjee
Mamata Banerjee gestures while addressing her party workers and supporters at her Kalighat residence after her thumping win.
mamata
A happy Mamata Banerjee after winning assembly elections in West Bengal.

 Exactly hundred years after British shifted the capital from Calcutta to Delhi, another major change has taken place as the Left front’s empire ended after over three decades.

It is not my aim to write about Mamata Banerjee’s victory as already tonnes of ink has been spent by experts over the crumbling of the communist citadel.What I do find interesting that the most famous series of Urdu primer written by Maulvi Ismail Merathi till recently mentioned ‘Bachcho Kalkatta, hamare mulk ka darul hukumat hai’ [Calcutta is India’s national capital].The fact that Maulvi sahab died long ago, and it was felt improper to tamper with his text, has ensured that without exaggeration, millions of children, read this lesson about Calcutta [Kalkatta, as in Urdu]. Things which you read in childhood remain with you all your life, and thus even though many Bengali friends don’t remember it, the fact that Calcutta was India’s capital till as late as 1911, remains stuck in my mind.

Merathi sahab was a tremendous writer who focused on kids. His poems, particularly, the ones on ‘pavan chakki’ and ‘gaay’ [cow] are famous for their simplicity. Many of you might have heard about these poems. The first stanza of the poem on cow starts with:

I am not an advocate of either the Left’s or Mamata’s brand of politics, and this is not a philosophical defence of her as a politician. But, as the media in the past few days wrote over and over again about woman power in Indian politics, clubbing her with many other names ruling several states, I thought there was one simple fact that set Mamata’s case apart from all other powerful women: there is simply no man in the backdrop of her political strength. She has no surname to ride on. She is nobody’s protégé, wife, widow, sister, or daughter. She has not inherited a mantle from anyone. She is, simply, the only man in her political establishment.

Of course, that has been said for others before. Indira Gandhi was called the only man in her establishment, and today Mayawati is the sole terror in the BSP. But while Indira’s guts cannot be denied, she did not have to start at the base and make her way up; she was a prime minister’s daughter before she became prime minister. Sonia has made her mark in Indian politics today, but she would not have been Congress president if she had not been married to Rajiv Gandhi. In fact, across the subcontinent, which does not empower women very enthusiastically, we can justifiably be proud of the political positions held by an Indira or a Sonia in India, or by a Benazir in Pakistan, a Sirimavo Bandarnaike and Chandrika Kumaratunga in Sri Lanka, a Sheikh Hasina and a Khaleda Zia in Bangladesh. But, without taking any credit away from what they all have done, they began their political journeys as women related to men of some political consequence, if not men of supreme political consequence in their respective countries. Indira was the daughter of a prime minister; Benazir was the daughter of a deposed and executed prime minister; Bandarnaike was the widow of an assassinated prime minister while her daughter Chandrika was one of the few people in the world to have both parents serve as prime minister; Khaleda was the widow of an assassinated president; Sheikh Hasina was the daughter of an assassinated president.

Interestingly, President Asif Zardari represents a prominent subcontinental gender reversal of that pattern – of riding on the wave of an assassinated relation to the top of the political system – but that’s a story for another day.

The trend doesn’t stop at the Indian subcontinent alone. Corazon Aquino was the widow of an assassinated Senator who rode to presidency; even the much respected Nobel laureate, Aung San Su Kyi, is the daughter of an assassinated national icon whose name is embedded in her own, and whose legacy she has carried on at great personal cost.

Within the country, Jayalalithaa inherited the mantle from MGR: if I recall correctly, there were ugly scenes between her and MGR’s widow’s supporters after the superstar’s demise. The public chose her as the bearer of his legacy, and she, of course, carved out her own space subsequently. Kanshi Ram built the BSP from scratch and mentored Mayawati, till, of course, it came to a role reversal and in his last days he was virtually secluded from the world and in her care – or custody, as some say. A similar track could be dug out in many other cases, or at least in the majority of instances. Rabri Devi, of course, is a one of a kind example. I haven’t run through a database, but am arguing a common sense perception call. There probably will be strong women leaders at different levels, who have made it from the grassroots completely on their own strength, but as you go towards the apex, to the levels of the CMs and the PM, the pattern described above seems to be the predominant one.

I do not for a moment suggest that these women are not achievers in their own right, or that they have not fought their own battles. I only wish to point out that the voter in the subcontinent, in standing by women leaders, has not often stood by a woman who has no political family, track, history, who commands no sympathy – someone who is simply a political leader, with gender being of no consequence.

But Mamata has had nobody whose political legacy she has taken forward, no mentor who launched her, nobody in whose name she has ever asked for votes. As she assumes charge of one among the most volatile political states in the country, she does not even have a party high command she needs to keep happy – something even other women who could see themselves as largely self-made, such as a three-term Sheila Dixit or a fiery Uma Bharati, need to think about when they serve as chief ministers.

I do not know how Mamata will govern West Bengal; she may turn it completely around, or make a mess of it. But either ways, her political victory is one of the few instances of a subcontinental woman – a lone woman – making her way from zilch in the political system and earning the support of millions of voters, of fighting the establishment just by herself, with no launchpad. She neither owes any share of success to a family legacy, nor owes answers to a political supreme command. She is her own political brand, 100%. For that, alone, her electoral win is perhaps a milestone.So when she says, grammar be damned, ‘I am a simple man’ – yes, in fact, today, she’s simply the man in Bengal.

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