Let the women decide

I never did think that I would write this in a political context but I never did like alpha males. Such aggressive males are okay in the context of the wild and the deep dark jungles – it is the survival of the fittest after all — but I do not think one suits the civilized context or even the Indian milieu.

Perhaps that is why over the past couple of weeks I have been hearing from a lot of people — and these critics include women – that they are beginning to much prefer Rahul Gandhi to Narenda Modi or even Arvind Kejriwal. I was startled when these women, unknown to each other first told me, in almost exactly the same words“I would never have thought I would prefer Rahul Gandhi to any one else for Prime Minister. But over the past few days with what is on display, I would much rather have the soft spoken, polite self effacing and amenable Rahul than either Modi or Kejriwal.”

It is not up to me to do this but someone should start a poll in this regard – however, my uninformed opinion and experience over the years tells me much about at least the women of this country. The only year that any party swept the Lok Sabha polls so completely was in 1984 and, although a rookie at the time, I heard it said that Rajiv Gandhi wrung – and won – the hearts of most women voters in the country with his tear-brimmed eyes as he looked into the sunset with his mothrer’s funeral pyre burning in the background. Everyone either wanted to mother him or cuddle up to him and that emotion cut across the rural- urban divide and across all ages as I discovered during that election campaign.

(Notice that most supporters of Narendra Modi are not among women as much as they are among men – perhaps those who secretly harbour the desire to be alpha males themselves and who believe that being one somehow scores over and wins over everything and everybody. Alpha males can come from all sections of society – my friend had a driver once who was a typical alpha male and I can vouch that not even his male employer could stand the man beyond a point.

Talking to friends and acquaintances I think women in India much prefer the somewhat vulnerable, somewhat unsure but basically sincere and honest man to a stalker, non-respecter of the rights of women (for example ill-treating wives, believing women exist only to serve men, treating them as little better than slaves or chattels).

I am by no means suggesting that any of the political leaders we know of in the fray are one or any of these but I guess it is not for nothing that Sharad Pawar in the 1990s, a man greatly influenced by women in his life (mother, wife and daughter – I saw the look in his eye’s once as he gazed with concern at his wife and had thought even then that I would never have associated that look with a man like Pawar, soft, gentle, vulnerable about her discomfort), laid so much emphasis on the rights of women – and he empowered the women in the rural areas hugely by simply giving them the right to shut down liquor dens/stores in the villages if they felt their men folk were too influenced by alcohol.

And now not for nothing is Rahul Gandhi stressing on the empowerment of women again, as nauseum, interacting with them in groups and bunches, bringing a personal touch to these interactions which some other leaders might dismiss as namby pamby pursuits of essentially a Mama’s Boy. But this election I have yet to see women fall over their feet in wanting to kiss another political leader or refer to anybody else as a son or a brother.

I do not know how to classify Arvind Kejriwal in these terms except as `currently trendy’ but politically bohemian. But while personally I think he is too shrill and repetitive, I also believe that in the short run we did need someone as bold and bizarre as Kejriwal gets in his rhetoric against both the Congress and the BJP. Kejriwal is holding up a mirror to all the established political parties and it is not for nothing that the BJP is reacting so sharply to his attacks on Narendra Modi.

For suddenly the electoral arena is like a jungle – the dominant animal is in danger of losing his prime position and this has turned into a battle between two big cats over the kill. But who will then become the monkey who runs away with the cheese?

Perhaps this time again it is the women of the country who will decide.

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