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Didi – A Lens To See Women In Indian Politics

By Rohini Sen

The second phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections concluded amidst BJP’s raging (and tone deaf) rhetoric of Hindutva and development. And in the middle of all this, stands the brutally caricatured figure of Mamata Banerjee, the CM. In popular imagination she is either “didi”, the omnipotent, loud mouth leader of TMC or, she is emblematic of all that is wrong with contemporary political vision in a state that just does not seem to fit anywhere with its peculiar nostalgic, baggage.

What is common to both is the complete flattening of the image of a woman who is desperately trying to hold on to her power in the overarching male political idiom of a country. This is not a vindication of her actions, the massive failures and deep dysfunctions of the party. But in portraying her as one or the other, there is a constant tendency to invisibilise what she is really up against.

How bhawdro (decent) or obhawdro (indecent) she is seems to far outweigh the rank communalism of BJP, the horrible psychic contortion that every female politician has to undergo to simply hold ground and, how all vulgar political pronouncements by literally any man is simply “a part of the system.”

Not hers though. Her scattered English and public stunts at visibility are mostly hashir khorak (object of ridicule). Again, this is not a vindication of violence or misbehaviour. But reducing her to hysterics, parody and caricature takes away attention from significant things.

The fact that the Prime Minister and Home Minister of the ruling central party are using all their might in a desperate effort to win one single state. That not once has the conversation been on issues, even the low hanging fruits, that ail Bengal.

But most importantly, that we always see female politicians with the standards given to us by our grandfathers, uncles and other male figure who decide the limits of public spaces.

The collective will of BJP has condensed on decimating its opponents through a rhetoric of ridicule. And there are innumerable bad things happening in this election. But, a harangued woman desperately trying to save her political capital is not the worst of them.

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