Why An Uproar When Priyanka Chaturvedi Shifts Political Parties?

Priyanka Chaturvedi

One of the most high-profiled spokespersons of Indian National Congress Priyanka Chaturvedi resigned from the party which she joined 10 years back. She then announced, she was joining Shiv Sena and was seen alongside Uddhav Thackeray addressing a press conference. Everyone has a right to leave a party and join another party of their choice. But, Chaturvedi has been in the line of fire from everybody for her decision. Is it because she is a woman? How dare she feel insulted? How dare she be ambitious? Because, on the other hand, we keep seeing men shifting loyalties even more frequently than women, but it is taken as a given, a cleaver political move.

Priyanka Chaturvedi decided to quit the Congress because it didn’t take cognisance of her complain about harassment by party workers on a recent trip to Mathura. She tweeted “I gave ten years of my life to a political party at the end of which I felt extremely let down for not standing up on issues which are important for women’s rights.” She was refereeing to her then party’s decision to take back a group of party workers who had been sacked after they allegedly manhandled her she was addressing a press conference Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura.

Chaturvedi again tweeted her displeasure. “Deeply saddened that lumpen goons get preference in @incindia over those who have given their sweat and blood.”

Being a woman sitting on a high profiled position doesn’t she have the right to take a stand, even when she feels insulted?

We ask, being a woman sitting on a high profiled position doesn’t she have the right to take a stand, even when she feels insulted? According to Arpita Das, Publisher, Yodapress, “The more important question, however, is why did the Congress not address her complaint about her sexual harassment by their party workers, and instead reinstated them. Congress can keep saying they believe in equal opportunities for women and women’s safety in the workplace, public space, and homes till they go blue in the face. But if they fall short when they are supposed to walk the talk, their women voters (a large part of their vote bank) will begin to have serious second thoughts.”

Hasn’t it always been the case-a woman who takes a stand is power hungry? While a man taking the same route is career conscious. Author and former banker Sonu Bhasin says “A woman who complains about mistreatment at work is usually the one who has to look for a new job. Priyanka Chaturvedi has proved that this happens in politics too. Any woman who takes up cudgels on her own behalf is also the butt of disparaging remarks. But I say this: PC you have an absolute right to your dignity. If your own party cannot protect you and your dignity as a woman, you are better off without them. If you have chosen to fight fire with fire, more power to you.”

Doesn’t everybody, an ambitious, career driven person switch companies looking for a higher position and salary?

As alleged if Chaturvedi was safeguarding her career and if she felt another party will give her the opportunity she was looking for, what wrong did she do? Doesn’t everybody, an ambitious, career driven person switch companies looking for a higher position and salary? To this regard advocate Abha Singh, says, “From Congress to BJP and BJP to Congress there have been countless instances of politicians switching parties. Congress itself has taken in so many from other parties, BJP included. Denying Priyanka a ticket after her work of over a decade and giving it to Urmila (Matondkar) who hasn’t even done a day’s work in the social field prior to joining the party was wrong. And then reinstating those who had misbehaved with her in Mathura was also wrong. The Shiv Sena needs a North Indian face. And why shouldn’t Priyanka safeguard her interests, why is it only men who are allowed to party hop and climb the ladder, why shouldn’t a hardworking ambitious woman do the same? I condemn all the trolling being done. It will not demoralise but strengthen the resolve of us women who are ready to break all glass ceilings!”

While Surya HK, writer and research assistant at Ashoka University and a contributor to SheThePeople, says, “I feel it’s dependent on the prominence of the person. It is only natural for public faces of the party, such as star campaigners or media spokespeople, to attract more attention and commentary than say, a local leader in a state. The lower the leader, the lesser he/she will draw attention. People at this level are discussing matters of ideology every night on television so it seems like a betrayal when they jump ship. Do we question the hundreds and thousands of grassroot level workers who switch parties on a daily basis for practical considerations?”

“Apart from that, like all other cases, when the person in question is prominent, personal attacks are levelled. When it’s a woman, the personal attack often becomes sexist. This is the disappointingly unfortunate truth.”

Author Sreemoyee Piu Kundu says “All women politicians are constantly under the target of misogynistic trolls. What they wear. If they are a beti or a bahu, is their heads covered demurely. When a man leaves a political party it is seen as a political move even if it’s sheer opportunism but when a woman follows suit it’s always personal attacks on her character and her gender. In every sphere of life women are soft targets.”

But there are people like senior journalist Saba Naqvi, who question Chaturvedi’s sudden change in loyalties. So does Surya HK, he says “Priyanka was the Congress’ most prominent media face, committed to anti-Hindutva politics and was refreshingly vocal on women’s issues. While she is well within her right to join the Shiv Sena for practical considerations as a politician, people have the right to question her commitment to her ideological dispositions. While she feels betrayed by the Congress for not standing up to the values they claim to espouse, the people feel quite the same about her, as far as the Shiv Sena is concerned.” Arpita further adds, “I am of the opinion that if any politician does something as partisan as this, they should be called out, and she is no exception.”

 Tara Krishnaswamy, who runs the organisation Political Shakti says, “She is simply trying to further her political career and is well within her rights to do so. In fact, it is the politically astute. We have men crossing over daily and voters don’t blink. No party treats women equally and respectfully enough – after all parties are a reflection of society. One may or may not like the Shiv Sena but if indeed the Congress brought back men who issued rape threats to her, you can’t expect her to tolerate it.”

Harini Calamur, journalist and documentary film maker sums it up well, “I think there are two parts of it, and both are equally valid. The first is that women are expected to live up to a higher standard of public behavior than men. For example, Shatrughan Sinha can spend all these years with the BJP, and move parties, without being labelled. But a Priyanka Chaturvedi or an Alka Lamba will be labelled. The second part has less to do with gender. It has to do with positioning. All these years, Priyanka has come across as vehemently anti-right wing. And, now when she moves to a party that is right of the BJP, there will be some amount of derision, if not outright condemnation.”

Smita Singh is an editor with SheThePeople.TV team.