Interview of the Week
Karuna Shukla working at the party´s grassroot level has a firm determination to make Indian women politically and socially strong and independent. She is Member of Parliament from Janjgir, Chhattisgarh and was also recently given the charge of the Mahila Morcha, BJP´s women wing. She shared her experiences with Organiser correspondent Preeti Sharma Excerpts:
You were recently elected as a Member of Parliament and as a national president of Bharatiya Mahila Morcha. Which step is first on your agenda?
As a Member of Parliament from an area which is quite underdeveloped and comprises a majority of Janjati population, my effort is to work for the fulfillment of people'sbasic needs of food, water, shelter, roads, electricity, schools and hospitals. After that, I want to work specially for the illiterate Janjati women who are socially underprivileged. The need is to make them aware of their social rights. Under the duties of Mahila Morcha, I would say that women form 50 per cent of the population and Bharatiya Janata Party is the largest political party of the country, which has the maximum amount of women´s participation. So I want to strengthen that BJP as an organisation wherein women would be bestowed duties. This is what we discussed at the National Workers? meet recently. Our aim is to make women independent, both politically and financially, which can be accomplished if the women workers of BJP Mahila Morcha work to unite women all over the country.
?I am attached to the country´s roots.??Karuna Shukla
Are you satisfied with the participation of women in the party?
BJP is the only political party which has left no stone unturned to encourage active women'sparticipation in politics. Everyone can see that it is for the first time in the history of the nation that two women, Smt. Vasundhara Raje Scindia and Uma Bharti, were elected as the Chief Ministers of their states, before the Lok Sabha elections. We are determined to increase the women participation even more. According to the 73rd and 74th Amendment of the Constitution, women have got reservation in other fields. So, in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, too, we want that women should get reservation.
Tell us about your childhood life and early experiences?
I was born in Gwalior as the third child of Shri Awadh Behari Vajpayee, the elder brother of former Prime Minister, Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Right from my childhood I wanted to be a leader. Let me share an incident with you. During the India-China war, I was studying in eighth standard. Though I did not know Chou En-lai or Nehru, there was a spirit of patriotism in me. I donated my gold earrings for the cause. I even made an effigy of Chou En-lai, collected my neighbourhood friends and burnt it, giving the slogan, ?Chou En-Lai murdabad?. Girls did not ride bicycles at that time, but I learnt it and enjoyed riding it. I even used to organise boys and girls cycle races. I married Shri Madhav Shukla, a doctor in Chhattisgarh. At that time, being a housewife, I helped my husband in his work. I have two children: Rahul and Rashmi, both married. I am a grandmother of two kids.
My life took an important turn when I took BJP'smembership on April 6, 1980. When I started working in the party, my husband took voluntary retirement from his government job in 1989 because he thought that due to his regular transfers, my work was getting disturbed. He gave priority to my work than his; I was deeply touched at that time. Family´s support is very important for a career-oriented woman. I got more involved in social work at Chhattisgarh. I started my work in the wards. I contested the Mandal election, though I lost it. I became the Mandal vice president. Then I was elected as Mahila Morcha'sdistrict head. I got a party ticket in 1993 from Baroda Bazar, Raipur. I was an MP from 1993 to 1998. I received the Sansadiya Utkrishthata Puruskar in Madhya pradesh. I have travelled in ten countries. I lost the next elections in 1998 because a rebel candidate of my party stood in the elections just to make me lose. Then I was elected as head of Mahila Morcha in Madhya Pradesh and later in Chhattisgarh. I have worked a lot in Chhattisgarh, in different rallies and political meetings. Again to my surprise, I was allotted a party ticket from Janjgir. I have been the national vice president for some time. I was also in-charge of Orissa, which has done fairly well for the party. And it is due to the blessings of the party and its workers that I have won this election from my constituency, which is 300 km away from my residence and where Congress has had its stronghold.
You have worked for many women organisations all over the country. What do you think is the prime reason for women being less active and privileged?
The prime reason is that women do not know their duties and responsibilities. Also, women in our country are illiterate and the most important reason is that one woman does not motivate another woman to rise in her career. In politics also, for example, only those women are coming out who belong to specific, famous families of the country. Men are also our rivals, but if we have confidence and awareness in ourselves, no one can stop us. If women belonging to orthodox families are determined to do well, they can no doubt come up as they have the stamina to do well.
Why are you working pri-marily for women empo-werment?
The NDA government introduced a very good plan for women, called the Self-Help Group, which can make illiterate women financially strong on a small scale. Secondly, I want that women should form their own NGOs through which they can generate funds and help the society. I am planning to organise a workshop in this regard. The government should work specifically for the people of underdeveloped states, but not with any political objective.
What made you join politics? Did Atalji inspire you?
Social service led me into politics. I have been working for the party for the last 25 years continuously. I would like to thank my family who has supported, trusted and motivated me to join politics and work for the country. I am proud to be the niece of Shri Vajpayee, but I have my own identity too. Shri Deen Dayal Upadhaya and Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerji are my role models and inspirations in my work for the party.
Nothing concrete has been done for the Women´s reservation Bill since long. What do you feel can be done in this regard?
Let me clear this first of all. BJP has a clear mind and heart on this issue. Shri Lal Krishna Advani proposed this Bill in 1987. During NDA´s tenure this Bill was introduced in the Parliament two times. But the people, who are today sitting in the UPA government, opposed it. Later they declared in their manifesto that they would bring this Bill in the Parliament, but nothing has been done till now. What I want is that they should abide by what they have said. The Bill is for the good of the country.
What are your expectations from the present Congress-led UPA government?
I have no expectations from the UPA government at all. The government whose Prime Minister is nothing more than a puppet, while other forces are acting besides him, I have no hopes from them. They have overruled many good policies of the NDA government, like Swarna Chaturbhuj Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, River Interlinking Project. They are wearing political spectacles and are still hovering around the Gandhi-Nehru family. They have removed our Governors from states, blaming BJP and Sangh for no reason and are bent upon changing our education policy. How can we expect development from them?
People ask me how I am different from Smt. Sonia Gandhi. I repeatedly tell them that there is a lot of difference between her and me. She is in politics merely because she is a daughter-in-law of the country'sinfluential family, but I am attached to the country´s roots and am working unceasingly.