Sunday, Oct 19, 2003
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By Mahesh Vijapurkar
Recently, Sharad Pawar, leader of the Nationalist Congress Party, coalition partner with the Congress in the Maharashtra Government, had described Ms. Gandhi as an "imported" leader and triggered a political crisis which saw the Congress issuing and then withdrawing "an ultimatum" to the NCP.
Ms. Gandhi was in this Marathwada town as part of a two-day visit and her day started at Udgir where she unveiled a statue of Indira Gandhi at a sugar factory and then addressed a women's rally where she dwelt on women empowerment. "No party can match the Congress in its commitment to give women a share in decision-making." "My loyalty, my patriotism or my Indianness (`bharatiyata') cannot be snatched away," she declared. She said the BJP had attained power through the vehicle of communalism, and "national security is in danger."
Ms. Gandhi focussed on women's role in society, pointing out that after Mahatma Gandhi brought women to the forefront of the nationalist movement, it was Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi who accorded the right place for them in society.
But women themselves had a lot to do, such as starting a movement for their rights, including a 33 per cent share in the decision-making bodies. Often, women themselves consented to "debilitating social ills" such as dowry.
The framers of the Indian Constitution had given women their rights even when society did not accord it to them. Now, they had the legal backing for their claims, and political assertion would empower them permanently.
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