Right On, Sister Sasikala!
“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