India, like most other countries, have a deeply patriarchal society. Still there are a few powerful women leaders who command huge popularity.
They proved their mettle once again when results of this round of state assembly elections was declared. Two women chief ministers , who were the lone vote catching faces of their parties, retained power comfortably.
Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalithaa on Thursday stormed back to power in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu respectively braving all the odds.
While Mamata returned to power with an overwhelming majority, bettering her 2011 performance, Jayalalithaa became the first Tamil Nadu chief minister in 32 years to be voted back to power.
Both heads regional parties with no presence outside their states. Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress is a break away faction of Indian National Congress. Jayalalithaa, a very popular film actress herself, heads AIADMK, a Tamil sub nationalist political party, founded by a former popular actor M G Ramachandran. Both Mamata and Jayalalithaa are unmarried.
Out of the 29 states in India, currently five are headed by women chief ministers. Still the representation for women in legislatures has always been around 10 % or less.
A bill to reserve one-third seats for women in national Parliament and state assemblies had to be shelved few years ago due to strong male opposition. In local bodies there is already a 33% reservation for women.
Big victories for this two women leaders may not herald a gender equitable era in India. But their success should silence apologists of patriarchy doubting the capabilities of women.