Madame President

In what turned out to be the mud slinging presidential polls, Pratibha Patil became the 1st women president of India, in the 60th year of independence, something that even the world super power USA can not boast of yet. Pratibha Patil, the governor of Rajasthan and UPA candidate, won by 6,38,116 votes in an electoral college of 10.98 lakh. Patil was contesting against the NDA-backed independent candidate Bhairon Singh shekhawat, who managed to register 3,31,306 votes. Patil got unexpected support from dissidents in the rival camps in BJP and AGP. In Gujarat, apparently four BJP anti-Modi MLAs voted for Patil. This certainly reveals cracks in the 23 party NDA coalition as NDA’s staunch allies Shiv sena also went out supporting Patil. Patil scored impressively in Maharashtra where Shiv Sena broke ranks with BJP and supported her. She got 223 of the 281 votes.

The former governor of the northern Indian state of Rajasthan described her win as “a victory of the people”. Mrs. Patil has courted controversy, recently telling a Muslim congregation that the veil was introduced to protect their women from Mughal invaders, a comment she later retracted. She also faced allegations that a bank she helped set up gave out cheap loans to her relatives before it folded up. The Congress Party has rejected those allegations and was highly critical of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led opposition candidate, Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, an 83-year-old party veteran.

Controversies aside, election of Mrs. Patil to the seat of president of India is the farthest an Indian woman has reached in politics. There’s no dearth of female leadership in India politics but a woman as 1st citizen of India is a 1st in India history. In a year when Indian women have flower far and beyond in space, sports, politics, literature and entertainment, election of Pratibha Patil as president truly reflects that Indian women have come off age, broken all traditional and conventional shackles and are ready to take on the world.