New Delhi: They are in themselves formidable power centres in India. And they are all women. Mayawati, J Jayalalithaa, Mamata Banerjee and Sheila Dikshit form the awesome female quartet who have not only defied the glass ceiling of India's politics marked by patriarchy and sycophancy, but have also proved to be larger-than-life figures within their parties. Despite their aura and popularity, all's not well in the powerful female quartet's camps.
As skeletons tumble out of the corruption cupboard in UP, ex-Chief Minister Mayawati finds herself pushed to a corner. Mayawati has been accused by CM Akhilesh Yadav of presiding over the plunder of the state to the tune of Rs 40,000 crore. And all this while her party, the BSP, was still smarting from the debacle in the state assembly polls two months ago when the BSP's tally slipped from 206 to a paltry 85.
The list of scams is long. To name a few - the multi-crore National Rural Health Mission scandal, the alleged misappropriation of funds to make gigantic statues of elephants, the BSP's election symbol, the mismanagement in the purchase of seeds, the Dalit Prerna Sthal park in Noida and more than a dozen others. Akhilesh has already directed officials to escalate the probe into the sprawling Dalit Prerna Sthal park in Noida, which was inaugurated by Mayawati at the fag end of her five-year term. The Lokayukta has already given his report against many ministers of the BSP government.
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was on Wednesday pilloried by her political rivals after she carpet-bombed Delhi and Chennai with four full-page advertisements in almost every newspaper listing her government's year-long achievements, costing the state exchequer an astounding Rs 25 crore and drawing widespread criticism by the opposition and on social media.
The state government's advertisement, 'The Vision for Tamil Nadu for 2023', had promised to transform Tamil Nadu into one of the country's most prosperous and progressive states with high literacy levels and no poverty. The advertisement also claimed Tamil Nadu to be the only state in the country where the government has distributed 'priceless' freebies including rice, mixer-grinders, electric fans and footwear to its people on its own.
Let's now move on to perhaps the most powerful and also controversial politician in India today.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on May 12 led a huge procession with Rabindra Sangeet and other age-old popular Bengali songs playing in the background to celebrate the first anniversary of the historic victory of her Trinamool Congress in the 2011 assembly polls. The triumph of the Trinamool Congress-Congress-Socialist Unity Centre of India(Communist) alliance on this day last year had brought to an end the 34-year rule of the Left Front.
However, instead of having a credible programme for developing West Bengal, reports from the ground show that Mamata has been more concerned with populism and not real work. The problem is the street-fighter that Mamata has been all her life has seriously affected her thinking in terms of serious policy decisions, and has instead made her a populist rabble-rouser as opposed to a visionary that West Bengal needed at this juncture.
Some people in Bengal are already wary of the Mamata (mis)rule. It's a state that knows its mind. It's a state that punishes well too. Mamata should realise that the great wave she once rode to power has ebbed, and that the logic of anti-incumbency now applies to her government. There may be a situation soon, much to Mamata's peril, where a popular nostalgia for the Left rule returns in West Bengal.
All is not well with India's longest serving female chief minister either. Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit, who led Congress to three consecutive victories in the national capital and has been in power since 1998, was forced last Saturday to analyse the reasons behind the Congress's humiliating defeat in the recent Delhi civic polls with her ministers and MLAs.
The Delhi Assembly polls are scheduled to be held in late 2013 or early 2014, i.e. barely two years from now. Considering the mood in Delhi substantiated by the recent civic polls as well as a growing resentment against the ruling Congress across the nation, it's unlikely that Dikshit will win a record fourth term.
However, how these amazing women of Indian politics choose to bounce back and regain credibility in the public mind is something that will be keenly watched. After all, women - even women politicians - do tend to surprise with their moves, don't they?