Margaret Alva, a veteran of political comebacks

Congress leader Margaret Alva has served as Governors of Uttarakhand, Goa, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Congress leader Margaret Alva has served as Governors of Uttarakhand, Goa, Gujarat and Rajasthan. | Photo Credit: PTI

A five-term member of Parliament, former Union Minister and former Governor, Margaret Alva’s accomplishments made her a unanimous choice of the Opposition parties, which are contesting the vice-presidential (V-P) polls more to prove the point that they are ready for a fight despite the odds to win.

A veteran of political comebacks, Ms. Alva of the Congress is precisely known for her ability to stand up and speak her mind, even if it means displeasing one of her own.

In 2008, she kicked up a political storm when she publicly accused her party’s Karnataka unit of “selling tickets” to the highest bidder after her son, Nivedith, was denied a seat to contest the Assembly elections.

The outburst cost her politically as she was not only denied a ministerial position in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) but also her organisational responsibilities were taken away.

A no-nonsense leader

Once considered close to party chief Sonia Gandhi and termed a no-nonsense leader, Ms. Alva was All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in charge of crucial States of Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana.

But following the 2008 controversy, she was dropped as AICC general secretary and also from the party’s election committee. However, later she made a comeback and was made Governor of Uttarakhand, Goa, and Gujarat before she retired as Governor of Rajasthan in 2014.

In her autobiography, Courage and Commitment, Ms. Alva had put the blame on senior leader A.K. Antony for her removal from organisational positions and held that it was because she had once recommended his [Mr. Antony] removal as the Kerala Chief Minister earlier.

While she was always close to Ms. Gandhi, her son Nikhil Alva also served in Rahul Gandhi’s close team of advisers when the latter was Congress president until his resignation in May 2019 following the Lok Sabha poll debacle.

Elected to the Rajya Sabha for the first time in 1974 at the age of 32, she finished four terms in the Upper House till 1998. She won her first Lok Sabha election from Karnataka and served as a member of the 13th Lok Sabha.

Piloted major statutes

Ms. Alva was made Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs in 1984 by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi when she was just 42. Through her three decades in Parliament as MP and later minister, she piloted major legislative amendments on women’s rights, reservation for women in local bodies, equal remuneration, marriage laws and Dowry Prohibition Amendment Act.

Like her rival in the vice-presidential polls National Democratic Alliance’s Jagdeep Dhankar, Ms. Alva was practising law before she came into politics and served as the Governor of Rajasthan, Mr. Dhankar’s home State.

Ms. Alva is the daughter-in-law of Violet Alva and Joachim Alva, both of whom were elected to the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha respectively in 1952 from then Bombay State, making them the first couple to be elected together to Parliament. She had married their son Niranjan in 1964.

She eventually joined politics under the guidance of the then Karnataka Chief Minister Devaraj Urs, a close confidant of Indira Gandhi at the time.

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Printable version | Jul 17, 2022 11:49:47 pm |