Right On, Sis­ter Sasikala!

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page Longer Lifespan - Ra­jyas­ree Sen

“It is very dif­fi­cult for a woman to be in pol­i­tics. I have seen it dur­ing Jay­alalithaa’s time also.” From al­most be­com­ing chief min­is­ter to def­i­nitely be­com­ing a con­vict who will make can­dles for the next few years, the past month has been quite the roller­coaster for for­mer Tamil Nadu chief min­is­ter J Jay­alalithaa’s BFF, VK Sasikala. Which could ex­plain this de­luded state­ment while on her way to meet the 127 leg­is­la­tors she’d kept on a fish curry-booze­fu­elled in­car­cer­a­tion at the Golden Bay Re­sorts in Chennai.

Never has a big­ger un­truth been spo­ken. And never has fem­i­nism been thrown into the com­post heap quicker than with th­ese words.

One would think though, that Sasikala’s per­ma­nent po­si­tion as Jay­alalithaa’s con­fi­dante, aide and co-ac­cused would have led her to have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of pol­i­tics and how one wins po­lit­i­cal of­fice. Yet, fol­low­ing Jay­alalithaa’s death last month, it seems that Sasikala has for­got­ten why she is even con­sid­ered a wor­thy con­tender to Amma’s throne.

Ever since Jay­alalithaa was de­clared dead — and maybe even be­fore — Sasikala had de­cided to play queen­maker. The queen be­ing her­self. Af­ter nam­ing O Pan­neer­sel­vam as chief min­is­ter, she had a change of heart and de­cided that she wanted not just Poes Gar­den, but also the chief min­is­ter’s chair. She had been pa­tient for so long. Play­ing San­cho Panza to Jay­alalithaa’s Don Quixote, lean­ing at wind­mills and cor­rup­tion and dis­pro­por­tion­ate as­set cases. It’s been a tough few decades and weeks.

Af­ter all, a prime qualification for be­com­ing a po­lit­i­cal leader is that you were once the com­pan­ion of a sit­ting PM or CM. The term “com­pan­ion” in­cludes sons, daugh­ters, lovers, wives and now, best friends. As long as you graced of­fi­cial state din­ners with an elected leader and ac­com­pa­nied them ev­ery­where, you are guar­an­teed — and there­fore ex­pected — a seat at the high ta­ble. You need to never have won an elec­tion, par­tic­i­pated in pol­i­tics or cam­paign­ing to be crowned queen.

If there is any in­dus­try in In­dia in which women are in fact the su­pe­rior sex, it is pol­i­tics. This is the only in­dus­try where women are paid com­plete obei­sance by men — even with its pa­tri­ar­chal sys­tems and dis­re­gard for women oth­er­wise.

Take Sasikala’s own jour­ney. As owner of a video par­lour, she be­friended the po­lit­i­cal in­génue try­ing to wrest con­trol of the AIADMK. In ap­pre­ci­a­tion for her taste in cin­ema, Sasikala was al­lowed to move into Poes Gar­den in the late 1980s. This was af­ter the death of Jay­alalithaa’s men­tor-com­pan­ion and the party’s founder, MG Ra­machan­dran.

Which brings us to Jay­alalithaa, whose only claim to po­lit­i­cal fame was that she was MGR’s com­pan­ion. Soon enough, she ousted MGR’s wife and be­came CM. Which was also the same time that Sasikala and her ex­tended fam­ily be­came per­ma­nent res­i­dents in Jay­alalithaa’s house.

Not to for­get Indira Gandhi who was made min­is­ter and, af­ter Lal Ba­hadur Shas­tri’s death, PM, for no rea­son other than that Jawa­har­lal Nehru died in­tes­tate. What were her qual­i­fi­ca­tions? That she spoke French and was her fa­ther’s of­fi­cial com­pan­ion for so­cial events of state. This would be tan­ta­mount to Ivanka Trump be­com­ing US pres­i­dent in case Don­ald Trump de­cides to re­turn to host­ing Celebrity Ap­pren­tice.

Mayawati’s only claim to po­lit­i­cal of­fice wasn’t that she was Kan­shi Ram’s com­pan­ion, but be­cause she was al­ready a sea­soned politi­cian by the time he died. But it sud­denly helped that he spot­ted her po­lit­i­cal tal­ent and brought her to Delhi. So­nia Gandhi was asked to be PM for no rea­son other than that she was Ra­jiv Gandhi’s wife. The only CM who is chief min­is­ter on her own steam is Ma­mata Ban­er­jee. If any­one has clam­bered her way to the chief min­is­te­rial post by sheer dint of her po­lit­i­cal acu­men, it is the Ben­gal CM. There are oth­ers, such as BJP lead­ers Sushma Swaraj and Sm­riti Irani, who have worked their way up. What­ever else we may say about J Jay­alalithaa, Amma never played the vic­tim. One can only hope that Sasikala’s prison stint will help her hold a candle to both her bene­fac­tor as well as fem­i­nism. Be­cause in Sasikala we have yet an­other woman who has cocked a snook at her male coun­ter­parts and be­come a po­lit­i­cal mark — or blem­ish, if you will — on In­dia. Who, much like many of our other fe­male po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, has matched our male ones in cor­rup­tion, au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism, nepo­tism and sex­ism.

Whether we like it or not, Sasikala is the lat­est fem­i­nist hero we must re­luc­tantly ac­cept into the In­dian po­lit­i­cal hall of fame. The fun­da­men­tal eco­nomic and busi­ness con­di­tions that con­trib­uted to the above-av­er­age re­turns of the past 30 years are weak­en­ing, and in some cases are in the process of re­vers­ing. As a re­sult, in­vest­ment re­turns over the next 20 years are likely to fall short of the re­turns of the 1985-2014 pe­riod. The steep drop in in­fla­tion and in­ter­est rates is un­likely to con­tinue. In­fla­tion is at about 1% in the US and at zero or just be­low in the eu­ro­zone, far be­low his­toric av­er­age rates. In­ter­est rates, too, are un­likely to fall much fur­ther. Stalled em­ploy­ment growth could weigh on GDP growth. An ag­ing world pop­u­la­tion means that one of the twin en­gines that pow­ered growth over the past half cen­tury has stalled.

Em­ploy­ment growth of 1.7% a year be­tween1964 and 2014 is set to drop to just 0.3% a year over the next 50 years in the G-19 coun­tries and Nige­ria. This leaves the onus on pro­duc­tiv­ity growth to power long-term GDP growth. But even if pro­duc­tiv­ity were to grow in real terms at the rapid 1.8% an­nual rate of the past 50 years, the rate of global GDP growth would still de­cline by 40% over the next 50 years, so great is the de­cline in em­ploy­ment growth. Busi­nesses face a more com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment that could re­duce mar­gins. The North Amer­i­can and Western Euro­pean com­pa­nies that ben­e­fited the most from growth of the global profit pool be­tween 1980 and 2013 are fac­ing tougher com­pe­ti­tion that could re­duce their mar­gins and prof­its.

From: Why Re­turns are Headed Lower and What to Do about It

With her back­ground

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