SMT. Kiran Maheshwari, is a popular Lok Sabha MP from Udaipur (Rajasthan) who is active both in Parliament and social work. She took over as National President of BJP Mahila Morcha about six months back. Earlier, she was the national secretary of BJP. She has also been the Mayor of Udaipur Municipal Corporation.
Amba Charan Vashishth interviewed her for the Organiser weekly when she spoke on a wide-range issues concerning women Excerpts.
As president of Bharatiya Janata Party Mahila Morcha, what are your priorities?
During the last six months I?ve toured all the north-eastern states, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra, Rajasthan, West Bengal etc. to tone up the Mahila Morcha organisation. To commemorate the 150th anniversary of 1857, First War of Independence, on August 9 we launched the Veerangna Naman Samaroh all over the country and it would be concluded on May 10 next year. Mahila Morcha also presented to the President of India on August 21 a memorandum signed by more than one crore women all over the country against Ram Sethu destruction. Mahila Morcha leaders and karyakartas also tied rakhis on the wrist of our jawans posted at the border in different parts of the country.
What are the plans in your mind to rejuvenate the Mahila Morcha to make it an instrument more useful for the party?
Women play a major role in making any political party or organisation successful and useful to the society. Mahila Morcha has an important role to play in garnering support for party philosophy among women. The Morcha has identified some key tasks for increasing women participation in party activities. Leadership development and understanding the party philosophy is the most important of these. Morcha has decided to hold Training camps for state level office-bearers at zonal levels. In these camps, effort is being made to develop skills in speech making, organizational management, and public grievances handling besides understanding party'sbasic principles.
The NGOs have emerged as a powerful medium to develop public image and solve problems facing the common people. Mahila Morcha is trying to encourage women workers in organising & managing NGOs. Morcha is organising public awareness camps and Kanya Janmotsavas to educate public about this great evil. Morcha is also working for women empowerment. Village, city and district units of Mahila Morcha are also active in agitating against price rise. Ram Sethu Destruction plans, appeasement policies and other issues have been raised by the party organisation.
Now that BJP has, in principle, decided to give 33 percent reservation to women in the organisation, how much prepared is the Mahila Morcha for the greater responsibility?
The BJP has always tried to give more representation to women at all levels. It has made two women leaders as chief minister. In the last assembly elections, Party made efforts to give ticket to one woman candidate in each district. The BJP has become first political party to provide 33 per cent reservation in organisational set up. This is a path-breaking decision which other parties must follow. Mahila Morcha has requested party leadership for 33 per cent reservation in its national executive meet at Rishikesh in June 2007. The Central leadership accepted the request. All women workers sincerely thanked the party leadership for the laudable decision.
Mahila morcha is trying to develop women leadership at all levels and does not foresee any problems in implementing the reservation decision.
Do you think women will get more representation in nomination for Gujarat and Himachal assembly elections in December?
I hope so. The BJP always encouraged developing women leadership. While other parties just pay lip service to woman representation, the BJP is the only political party which has a number of excellent women leaders at national and state levels.
Are there any practical difficulties in giving more representation to women in the Parliament, State assemblies and organisation?
Women Reservation Bill could not be introduced in Parliament due to oppositions from some parties. The BJP has promised to support the Bill. But The Congress and other UPA allies are not interested in providing due share of representations to the women. The UPA Government has even not tabled the draft of the Bill. They only talk about the women empowerment, but are doing nothing. There is a wide gap between their words and deeds. This is a major hurdle in giving more representation to women in parliament and state assemblies.
What is your opinion on presentation of women in commercial advertisements in TV and cinema?
Unfortunately, women are being projected in advertisements in ill manners as show pieces with physical exposure. This unethical and offensive presentation of women in advertisements works to their detriment and perpetuates an undesirable gender hierarchy. One of the main reasons for increasing incidents of crime against women is this negative image and these advertisements. Mahila Morcha is creating awareness in society about the social problems.
Do you think TV, cinema or internet is corrupting the minds of young women?
Unfortunately, our education system is not geared up to make the young people distinguish between the good and the evil. In the name of secularism, teaching of traditional values, culture and age old principles of social fabric are being denied to our children. TV, Cinema and Internet have become a tool to destroy our rich traditions. Only a good educational system can counter these tendencies.
What needs to be done in this direction?
The Central Government must act to stop disgraceful depiction of women in media and entertainment industry. The society should also assert positively to reward what is good and to ignore the products and services promoted through advertisements with undesirable women exposure.
Do you think women have been able to make their presence felt in Parliament and State assemblies?
Women leaders have displayed excellent caliber in proceedings in parliament and state assemblies. Vasundhara Raje has transformed Rajasthan from a bankrupt state into a fast moving progressive State with sound financial base. Even opposition members admire the speeches of Sushmaji Swaraj. Smt. Sumitra Singh has exhibited excellent skills in regulating assembly proceedings as speaker of Rajasthan Assembly. There are good women leaders in all parties. In BJP we have a number of very good women leaders.
How far do you think our women are getting distanced from our culture and traditions?
Women have been playing a very good role in strengthening our culture and traditions. They are not getting distanced from our culture and traditions. It is the onslaught of advertisements and commercial events in media which exploit women as a medium of exposure. Due to this some times we may think that women are straying away from our values. But reality is different.
Do you think you have succeeded in coming up to the expectations of the people in honouring the promises made to your electorate?
I have extensively travelled throughout my constituency. Of about 425 panchayats in my constituency, I have visited most of them. I had made some poll promises like broad gauge conversion, international airport, four laning of roads, and provision of drinking water. All these promises have been fulfilled now.
There have been an increasing number of cases of atrocities against women and violence in Delhi and other States. What, in your view, should women do for self-protection and to ensure that such ugly incidents are avoided?
Women must help each other to get the guilty punished. They should also get good education and acquire skills for empowerment and self-defence. Women must not support those parties and organisations that encourage atrocities against women.
What about sex education in schools?
This talk of sex education in school is absurd. What we need is education about our rich traditions, social harmony and skills in the art of life. They are talking about sex education to destroy the institution of family and our social foundation.
Do you think the present environment is conducive to greater women participation in politics?
Yes. Greater women participation in politics is the need of the hour in the present age. No society can progress or be prosperous without the involvement of women in every field of life.