Diya Kumari is an Indian politician who was elected as the Member of Parliament from Rajsamand constituency in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. She is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and served as a MLA from Sawai Madhopur for the term 2013-18. Kumari is a member of the royal family of Jaipur and daughter of the last Maharaja of Jaipur, Sawai Bhawani Singh and Padmini Devi. She completed her diploma in fine and decorative arts from Parsons Art and Design School, London and runs a museum trust of the palace. She began her career as a politician in 2013 after joining the BJP and currently serves as a brand ambassador of ‘Save the Girl Child’ initiative by the Government of Rajasthan.
As a politician and MP, she has worked extensively for the people in her constituency. She is also involved with the Princess Diya Kumari Foundation, which empowers women from impoverished backgrounds. Diya Kumari came in as a panelist on a discussion, “Technology, Women & Politics: Post-COVID elections, digitisation and women politicians” organised by NETRI Foundation in partnership with SheThePeople.TV. NETRI Foundation is an organisation committed to enhancing women’s political participation at all levels of representation.
On the subject of the use of digital technology in political campaigning, Diya Kumari says, “It was of great use in my campaign in the 2019 elections, from Facebook, Twitter to WhatsApp groups. Many women were connected with me as well through it." She adds that in terms of digital use, women candidates have a greater access to women constituents since the latter trust them more. The women in her constituency find it easier to put their grievances forward to women representatives, in comparison to men. Kumari is able to connect to the women through direct means of social networking websites and other digital means, particularly during the pandemic. Families also let women talk to a woman representative through digital means and social media.
While emphasising on the impact of her position as a woman MP, she also acknowledges the gender gap, which results in lesser participation of women in politics on digital platforms. Women are still reserved towards using technology, and the only means to bridge this tech divide is to hold sensitisation and training workshops at all levels of local governance. Technology ought to be made available to every woman and they should be trained to use the digital platforms. This will not only help reduce the gender-gap, but also help them access every sphere of society. Kumari says, “ women constitute fifty per-cent of the population, they need to be represented as such."
Talking about her constituency Rajasmand, she focuses on the conservative nature of the society and the problems she had initially faced in reaching out to the women. There are also problems of connectivity in the gram panchayats that are a hurdle in digitisation. As a means to overcome these problems, the ‘Digital Gaon Scheme’ has been sanctioned which will connect all gram panchayats digitally and the development of digital labs is underway. These initiatives will also include services such as TeleMedicine and TeleLaw, among others.
Another problem Diya Kumari brings up is the safety issues for women on digital platforms. Trolls are a deterrent for women who seek to use technology and social media. Kumari says that it is important for us to build safer spaces and gender-neutral environments on social media to ensure democratic participation. Cyber laws need to be stringent and women should be educated to access technology and learn about government schemes, finances and become aware of their capabilities.
As a parting note and advice to young women, Kumari says, “If given the opportunity, women can achieve great heights and sometimes even surpass men. It requires a lot of effort for women as it is more difficult and challenging for them than men. Women don't get opportunities very easily, you sometimes need to fight for it and any woman who wants to join politics should be ready for that. This doesn’t mean that one has to be aggressive and wild, one can put their point across firmly in a positive way.”
Interested in other recommendations that came from Diya Kumari? Read key takeaways here.
Kanksshi Agarwal, is founder at NETRI Foundation and a policy researcher working at the intersection of technology, gender, society and politics.