February 29, 2020
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Young Woman And A Few Old Men

Bhawana Pundlikrao Gawli, a 27-year-old Shiv Sena MP, can't tolerate procrastination

Young Woman And A Few Old Men
Bhawana Pundlikrao Gawli may be a 27-year-old village lass, but her problems are far removed from milking a cow. The youngest MP from Maharashtra is always on the move and the only obstacles she comes across are wise old politicians. She is sympathetic to their inabilities, but that doesn't make her any less unforgiving. "Saathi budhi naathi (When you're 60, your mind stops functioning)" she says in Marathi.

But she is not too happy with certain occurrences in the House which can't merely be explained away by senility. "I have noticed many times that some esteemed members while attending Parliament sessions have to be held and supported to prevent them from literally falling. They can't stand up or sit down without assistance. I wonder how they serve the people who put them in such positions of power." She is a trifle worried that the malaise of old men running nations has assumed universal proportions. "I think it is very selfish on a candidate's part to contest elections after he is 60. I think MPs should retire at 60 and make way for younger people. Senior leaders should always be there to advise their young successors but they should not be hurdles in the progress of young politicians." Her experiences with the 'elders' in the house has been less than cordial. "It's often been the case that a paan-chewing old hand has looked at me with kind eyes and called me gudiya (doll). I hate that. But it's alright. What gets my goat is that most senior MPs believe in procrastination." A seasoned politician, she opines, knows the virtues of sitting on a file too well to act. This proclivity to defer things is, in her opinion, the root of all scams.

Being young is not the only problem Bhawana Gawli has. She is a woman in the crudest sanctuary of men. When she was campaigning, senior party leaders from the Congress chuckled and said that she was just fooling around. But when she won they were very embarrassed. Says she: "Another vicious way of attacking a woman is by slandering her and scarring her image." But now she is no longer surprised when she comes across similar sentiments which manifest male chauvinist insecurity.

As we travel into the deep interior of her constituency in Maharashtra - to a Banjara tribal village - braving a merciless sun, she remarks: "How many aged MPs can actually visit every nook and corner of their constituencies quite often? They will faint if they travel in this heat. That is why it is great to be young. And that is why young people should not be prevented from taking a shot at politics and they should not be made to miss their chance when they are in their prime." This, she believes, is the mistake that Congress made. The cronies stuck to their seats and the young saw their lives and opportunities pass them by.

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