Only a handful of women have a presence in the Indian political system, yet they make an electrifying appeal among the political cadre as well as among the masses. With the Lok Sabha elections for the 2019 approaching, these women politicians will play a monumental role in affirming a win for their parties.
Here are few leading women politicians who are set to make a big impact on the Lok Sabha elections:
Priyanka Gandhi- The Indispensable ‘Gandhi’
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is a formidable campaigner. Deftly using her charisma to connect with the audience, Priyanka Gandhi makes for a wider mass appeal while campaigning.
In immediate terms, Priyanka’s elevation as AICC general secretary has earned the Congress a part in UP’s poll narrative from which it was absent after being kept out of the BSP-SP tie-up.
She is considered a more charismatic campaigner than her brother and Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi with presence and an appearance having pronounced resemblance with her grandmother Indira Gandhi, a formidable and controversial prime minister, who was assassinated in 1984.
Gandhi, the daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of Indian prime ministers, has a history of campaigning informally in the family’s ancestral homelands in eastern Uttar Pradesh resisting a formal political position within a party for herself for more than two decades.
The introduction of Priyanka Gandhi in the electoral fray is considered as the party’s masterstroke, reflecting its intent to go the whole hog in the politically crucial state.
Priyanka took charge as the All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary responsible for eastern Uttar Pradesh on January 23, the same day Jyotiraditya Scindia took charge of western Uttar Pradesh.
The party cadre has since long been demanding that the charismatic Priyanka Gandhi make a formal entry into the party, instead of confining her role to managing Sonia and Rahul’s backstage campaigns. Her foray into UP is thus expected to re-energize the cadre and prepare the party for a tough battle in the politically crucial state.
So, what is it that Priyanka’s entry is actually likely to do in the short term?
Albeit on the choice of the next Prime Minister, Rahul Gandhi is much behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his performance has enhanced in the past four months with commendable assembly election victories in three states, anointing Priyanka will further boost Congress’s hopes for a big win this year as well.
Smriti Irani- From a Star to a Star Campaigner
For a person who has had her own ups and downs in the government, from being the HRD Minister in the freshly constituted PM Modi’s cabinet to being shifted to the less fancied Textile Ministry, Smriti Irani have emerged as the BJP’s sword arm to take on the Opposition, mainly the Congress and its chief.
Of late, Irani is the chosen spokesperson to attack Congress to convey the party’s viewpoint on raging controversies as she is seen to be combative, quick-witted, sharp and articulate.
She had asserted herself as a strong contender against Rahul Gandhi for the Amethi constituency n 2014 elections. Irani, who is the youngest member in the Modi cabinet, continues to visit Amethi and is likely to again challenge Gandhi in the electoral fray.
Having made arrangements for sending senior citizens from Amethi to the Kumbh earlier this month, she keeps the party cadre in the parliamentary constituency motivated by keeping in touch with them.
Irani, who joined the BJP in 2003 and entered the Rajya Sabha in 2011 has surfaced as a firebrand leader with a good political acumen.
Reaffirming her allegiance to mentor PM Narendra Modi, the Union Textile minister recently said that she would leave politics the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to hang his boots, though she asserted that he would be around for “long years”.
“Never. I entered politics to work under charismatic leaders. I was very lucky to work under the leadership of late Atal Bihari Vajpayee and I am currently serving under Modi ji”
Mamata Banerjee- Fearless warrior
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has had a long inning in Indian politics, which includes stints in Central government and state politics with a distinction of having known leaders of most political parties.
The only women chief minister at present, Mamata Banerjee has fearlessly negotiated a man’s world—mostly alone—and emerged as one of India’s most successful politicians.
Over the period, she has emerged as one of the most vocal and threatening Opposition leader to the BJP government, sharing a cordial relationship with several key Opposition leaders, including Sonia Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu, and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal.
As talks of a Grand Alliance are running parallel, it cannot be denied that a majority of Opposition leaders are reaching out to Mamata Banerjee and showing solidarity with her stand against the Modi government, suggesting that she is central to any idea of a united Opposition taking on the BJP in 2019.
Being one of the first politicians to criticize demonetization, she has vehemently refused to implement the prime minister’s ambitious new health scheme in her state. Last month she got most of the country’s key opposition leaders to stand with her on the dais at the United India rally in Kolkata against the BJP.
Mayawati- leader of the downtrodden
Mayawati is the “Supremo” of BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party), the largest Dalit oriented party in India. For the past two decades, she has been a force to reckon the scheduled castes in the most populous state of the country.
Mayawati has been the Chief Minister of UP four times. In 1995 a fortuitous arrangement of votes and tactical alliances made Mayawati chief minister of Uttar Pradesh for the first time which turned out to be a ‘miracle of democracy’ as said by the then Prime Minister.
Then in March 1997, she became the CM for 184 days; again in May 2002 for 1 year 118 days and finally in 2007 with a full majority for a complete term of five years.
Without managing to win a single seat in Lok Sabha 2014 elections, BSP emerged as the third largest national party behind BJP and INC in 2014 general elections gaining 4.1% vote share.
Politics in the state of Uttar Pradesh is chaotic with a major focus on caste, religion, money and brute strength and Mayawati has overcome all these impediments by gaining loyal support from the masses.
Mayawati still has huge support in Uttar Pradesh but her rallies have so far been lackluster and the polls are not positive. An alliance with a former enemy, Samajwadi party brings hopes for the resurgence of both the parties in the currently saffronized state.
Sheila Dikshit- Reviving Congress in the capital
After continuous defeat in the Lok Sabha 2014 elections and assembly elections for the national capital, Congress party is banking on the three-time chief minister Sheila Dikshit to revive its hopes in New Delhi in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The fact that Sheila Dikshit has served as Delhi’s Chief Minister since 1998 speaks volumes about her clout in Indian politics. Dikshit’s contribution to making Delhi metro a reality and controlling pollution by making CNG the norm for heavy vehicles, cannot be forgotten. Amidst a strong political presence in the capital, Congress suffered a huge blow in 2013 when it got defeated at the hands of the Aam Aadmi Party.
The 80-year-old former CM is known to handle the barbs of the opposition with amazing dexterity.
Before leading the Congress in the 1998 Delhi assembly elections and assuming power for 15 years she was elected to the Lok Sabha from the Kannauj seat in 1984 and had served as the Minister of State for parliamentary affairs from 1986 to 1989. She also held the charge as a minister in Prime Minister’s Office.
Just like Priyanka Gandhi, Sheila Dikshit takes over the top job at a time when Congress is fighting for its survival in Delhi. The party could not win a single seat in the 2015 assembly elections, which the AAP won by a landslide. The party also failed to register a single win in Delhi in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, with the BJP emerging victorious in all seven constituencies.
Appointing Sheila Dikshit, Congress can make a comeback in the national capital.
These women leaders have a strong mass appeal and can possibly turn the table in their parties favor. Their role in Lok Sabha 2019 will one of the deciding factors for their party’s victory.