Among the many tasks that Pratibha Patil has, a significant one would be to convince women that she is a worthy representative of her gender holding the President’s post. Many women see her election as “mere tokenism”. Others have called it “symbolic empowerment”. A few hoped it would lead to pro-women policies.
Leading the critics, Madhu Kishwar Editor Manushi and Professor, Centre for Developing Society castigated the Congress: “To choose a tainted person simply because she is biologically different from men is an insult to women. This is gender injustice. Till Patil’s nomination, members of the Congress had raised hell to seek justice for the widow of the man alleged to have been murdered by a member of Patil’s family. Add to that the stories of financial fraud. I am told Patil was in charge of Indira Gandhi’s kitchen when she was out of power. It seems she has been rewarded for her services. No thank you, the women of this country can survive without this,” Kishwar told Hindustan Times.
But All India Women’s Conference President Manorama Bawa saw it as a “first step forward”. Describing Patil as a “woman of caliber” Bawa said: “Given her track record of working for women, I am confident that she will play a decisive role in taking forward policies for women unlike Presidents in the past,” she said.
Dubbing Patil’s choice as “symbolic empowerment” Ranjana Kumari, President Women Power Connect said: “Having a woman as President is symbolic empowerment. But what the women of India need is real power and a share in decision making.”
Slamming the BJP for exposing its “patriarchal mindset”, Sudha Sundraraman General Secretary All India Democratic Women’s Association said the BJP’s mud slinging had exposed its anti-women mindset: “We are very happy with her selection and hope this will help improve the status of women in this country. However merely electing a few women to top positions cannot dramatically alter the overall scenario. To assume one or two women in positions of leadership will help us achieve the impossible is a pipedream,” she said.
To Sreerupa Mitra Choudhury, Chairperson Institute for Gender Justice, the move was a “wake up call” to the women at the grassroots level: “So far we see that spirited women do not come forward to participate in the electoral process. A woman as President would send the right signal.” Choudhary said.