Why India must have a woman president

Pratibha Patil is the front-runner for the President’s post. I don’t give a damn for SMS polls, but those supporting her are in a minority. ‘Feminists’ have come on TV discussions to say it is a symbolic gesture.

I just got a call from one of the channels to be a part of their panel. This is the third time in a couple of months they have asked. I give them my opinion and then say no. Tease!

So, what was my opinion on Ms. Patil? Do I think it is only a symbolic gesture?

If it is a symbolic gesture, then it is high time we had such symbolism. 60 years since independence and yet no woman in that post. The Presidential post itself is symbolic, for heaven’s sake. And what have been the credentials of most people who occupied this high office? Abdul Kalam Azad was a scientist; he was responsible for our nuclear power. It is not something I approve of. And he was symbolic too. Nice Muslim who reads Hindu scriptures, grows his hair long, blah, blah…

Let us not forget that even in the US, which claims to be the most developed of the developed world, there has been no woman. Yet. That president is of course different, but why has it not yet happened? Hillary Clinton is there, but she is playing the Sita maiyya. So if Pratibha Patil is not your ‘real feminist’ who has done nothing for women, then honey it’s time you checked your blinkers.

Most women in politics are referred to as ‘men’, including Indira Gandhi. Except for once when she was referred to as “goongi gudiya”. (Dumb doll. How I wish she had been!) So what do we want as a record of “work done in the field of women”, as though they are some disease?

Pratibha Patil has been a minister with varied portfolios. And she is married outside her community and retained her maiden name. For me this is important. And she is flaunting the “my husband is a Shekhawat” card to taunt the other Shekhawat in the running. Yo! to that. Isn’t that what men do…use their wives to get mileage, to convey their liberalism and other such stuff?

There isn’t much in Indian politics that is not symbolic. Manmohan Singh started as a symbol, found his feet, then his feet became a symbol of “Lookie here, am mah own man”. Sonia Gandhi too is a symbol of dynasty and desperation of Indian politics to hold on to contemporary heritage.

Who are the people questioning Pratibha Patil’s credentials? What have these feminists done for Indian women except bringing out papers, going on foreign junkets for seminars and being completely removed from what the woman in local trains, in offices, in various other fields do? Their token symbolism of the rural woman is exploitative.

Ms. Patil may not get to do much, but I would be happy, not as a woman, but as a citizen of this country, to see that we beat the Americans, the Chinese, the Japanese at it. And let those sweet old men not keep harping about, “It is good to have a lady”. Good lord, let her just be a woman. And treat her like a lady when you are required to. Like opening the door, and saying things like “After you”. Yes, I like this. Most sensitive, confident women like it because they do not feel so threatened that they cannot stand the idea of being treated well.

If our Presidential nominee does look like a home-maker, then good for her. Millions of women all over the world do. She is in good company.


  1. blog
    And I must say,"Farzana varsey" for the President of India.

    And why not?FV has all the credentials to meet the standards of being an Indian President.

    FV with her sharp intellect, honesty,courage,leadership and great personality is the most suitable candidate for future Indian President.

  2. The Indian PM post IS the real post of power and we have had the likes of Mrs. Gandhi hold that position. We have also had Ms. Bhutto in Pakistan and also lady rulers in both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – who all indeed belonged to that gender. There is no need to prove the “our women can get to those positions” credentials any further to the world (and yes, the USA has been a laggard on the gender issue and also the race issue as far as positions of leadership are concerned). However, Symbolism for the sake of symbolism alone is a bad thing – it only provides the goody, goody feeling without addressing the real problem – the exploitation of females in the society at large. Also, I personally think India should get rid of the post of the President and use whatever money that would save for some other worthwhile purposes – including the uplifting of the women’s status.

  3. Being fully cognisant of the presence of women politicians in the subcontinent, I feel the position of the President, titular as it is, needs a symbol. Symbols take on a life of their own with time. As the supreme commander of the armed forces, I believe the potency of a woman at the helm would be of great value.

    There was a time when i believed in a no-president state for India but with the increasing presence of coalition politics, I think the role of the president should be given greater weightage. And with India being in a state of flux the possibility of presidential intervention during emergencies should be taken into account.

    The bottomline ought to be fairness towards the issue and not specific political parties.
    - - -

    Without any self-effacing modesty, all i can say is I am completely unqualified. You see, i do not believe in 'objectivity' :-)

  4. FV, it is possible to be fair without being objective.

    Returning to the current issue, I went and read some stuff on this lady and it appears that she supported the “Emergency” rule of Mrs. Gandhi. Now THAT is very disturbing, because it indicates that she puts party/ruler loyalty before principles. It does appear that her nomination derives from her blind support of the Indira and her clan rather than anything else which would make her any different from the countless other second-tier regional political players. I am not happy.

  5. How many old Congress ppl did to support the Emergency? Why is everyone talking about her blind support for the clan?

    She became a MLA when she was 26 or something, then rose on her own. In politics you need someone to give you a ticket to contest.

    Every presidential candidate is chosen on the basis of potential pliability. It is for the person to see what they can do. And a symbol that lasts for six years could grow into something. I find it disturbing that so many people are questioning her ability, when they never did so with others. Who was Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, V.V.Giri, Sanjiva Reddy? Did K.R.Narayanan not become a symbol of the Backward classes?

  6. But shouldn't symbols also have content. Narayanan was also the best president India has ever had. Kalam was a bad symbol for muslims, tried to popularised himself. Remember that he also refused to make public, the letters related to Gujarat riots and accented to the murder of Dhananjay Chatterjee. The next president will have huge responsibilities. Will Ms. Patil be able to shoulder that? I have my doubts but hope for the best.

  7. Anoop:

    Symbols that have authority acquire content. I don't think we should rubbish her before even giving her an opportunity. KRN was no doubt good, but he was used as a symbol.


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