Women power in the Assembly

They are from different parties and backgrounds, but speak the same language: That of change and hard work. Neeta Kolhatkar meets four first-time women legislators
Praniti Shinde, Pankaja Munde, Meera Renge and Yashomati Thakur will be among the newcomers seen in the Assembly this time. But while Praniti and Pankaja are not strangers to politics — their fathers, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Gopinath Munde, are seasoned politicians — Meera Renge is a complete newcomer. Yashomati’s claim to fame, on the other hand, is that she was hand-picked by All India Congress Committee general secretary Rahul Gandhi to be a youth leader and made national general secretary of the Youth Congress.
The journey of these women into politics is interesting. They see politics only as a means to bring about change and strongly believe it’s an arena which requires more women.
For Meera Renge, coming from the most backward area of the state, Marathwada, her win is against all odds. Renge was denied a ticket three times before — sometimes even before she could present her case. This time, however, she came prepared with a presentation and a challenge to Shiv Sena officials. “Give me a ticket because I deserve it,” she told them. “If I don’t win, I will leave politics forever. But how can you deny me a ticket without giving me a chance?”
Renge feels this is the best time for women to enter politics. She attributes a change in the social and political atmosphere that has made women realise they can be vehicles of change. “Reservation for women at the gram panchayat level has made a tremendous difference to the mindset of people, particularly women. We realise women alone can handle issues like public health, education and sanitation. We have our own problems, but male legislators often ignore them,” Renge says.
Praniti, the youngest of the four, feels that Rahul Gandhi has ushered in a change, resulting in more youngsters seeking tickets. “A lot of the elected representatives are on Facebook and Twitter, and interacting with the public. Everybody wants change in society today, but people don’t know what to do about it. Networking with them, the youth will feel that the young leaders speak their language,” she says.
The four legislators feel they are more likely to be taken seriously because they are diligent. “As a woman, I think we can give a different shape to politics today. Politics has become less rowdy, and people definitely take women seriously because we work hard,” says Pankaja Munde.
Yashomati, however, says politics needs more educated women. She feels proud to have been chosen by that she was picked by Rahul Gandhi. “The confidence Rahulji showed in me has made me feel more confident as a woman.
“He said we needed more educated women to enter politics, and I understand that today. Politics itself is changing and moving away from the traditional. Women are no longer showpieces; we have been told we need to ask more questions in the Assembly floor, and I am confident we will do more justice to issues like health, education and women’s rights than our male counterparts,” says Yashomati.
The interesting factor is although many of the women legislators are from different parties and ideologies, they feel as women they will bond better.

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