A Letter to Robert Vadra and All Indian Husbands Who Feel They are Doing a Favour to Women
With one sentence in his Facebook post, Robert Vadra took away all the agency from Priyanka Gandhi.
File photo of Priyanka Gandhi and Robert Vadra.
Dear Robert Vadra,
Let’s face it. You don’t own Priyanka Gandhi or Vadra (The way you want to refer her).
When Priyanka Gandhi decided to finally take the big political plunge, she possibly had a conversation with her husband along with her brother, mother and several Congress leaders. It’s a big commitment, after all.
Being the Congress general secretary from Uttar Pradesh, traveling for days while campaigning, writing speeches combined with being the “perfect wife and the best mother” as Vadra put on his Facebook post, isn’t going to be an easy task by even a long stretch of imagination.
And Vadra gets it. Which is why he must have written those apparent loving words for his ‘Dear P’ on a social media platform. But what Vadra doesn’t get is that he isn’t doing a favour to ‘P’.
At the end of his Facebook wishes for Priyanka, he wrote, “Now we hand her to the people of India.”
See the problem here?
If you don’t, there’s not much to worry. Clearly, most journalists didn’t see it either.
As soon as Vadra shared this status message, television channels flashed it and news publications called it ‘emotional’. No one questioned the obvious sexism. Now while I am not doubting Vadra’s intentions here, the problem is that Vadra, like most Indian husbands, believes that Priyanka is his responsibility and it is also his responsibility to ‘hand her’ to the people of India. Because, apparently, the 47-year-old ‘perfect wife’, ‘best mother’ and a political leader can’t take decisions on her own.
What Vadra didn’t realise was this — with that one sentence he took away all the agency from Priyanka Gandhi.
Here’s a quick comparison.
When Rahul Gandhi took over as the Congress leader, in a speech, Sonia Gandhi, his mother, boasted of the ‘new and young leadership’.
“India is a young country. I am confident that with a new and young leadership our party will be reinvigorated and bring about the changes we need. You have chosen Rahul as your leader. He is my son, and it would not be suitable for me to praise him. But this much I will say -- while from his very childhood he has borne the experience of violence, the savage personal attacks he has confronted since entering politics has served to make him a brave and stout-hearted man. I am proud of his endurance and firmness, and I am confident he will lead the party with a pure heart, patience and devotion,” she told party workers.
She spoke of Rahul’s childhood, she spoke of his ‘bravery’, and his ‘young leadership’. At no point, was Rahul ‘handed’ over to the party workers, or to the country.
Incidentally, the idea of ‘handing’ over a woman isn’t new. It is so ingrained in our very beloved patriarchal system, that no one sees a problem with it either.
‘Kanyadaan’, which literally translates to ‘gifting away the girl’, is a ritual in Hindu marriages where the father ‘gives away’ his maiden daughter to the groom. It’s of course no surprise that the mother can’t do this ritual because she has no power to ‘give away’ her daughter. The power of this ‘giving away’, apparently, has been simply vested in men — fathers, brothers and then husbands. Vadra was simply following the same patriarchal rules while writing that Facebook status message.
In the 21 years of Robert Vadra and Priyanka Gandhi’s marriage, cruel jokes have been cracked on the compatibility of the couple. Vadra’s own friends in Moradabad were in shock to learn about their engagement. “We haven’t stopped wondering what Priyanka could possibly see in the boy. There is nothing exceptional about him or the family,” one of them had told reporters.
Too often, Priyanka is reduced to being Robert Vadra’s wife. In fact, when the Congress announced her entry into politics, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi said, “If the Congress wants to exult over the induction of a woman with a tainted life partner, congratulations to them.”
However, the criticism of her husband by politicians and the media did not deter Priyanka from taking her own decisions. Priyanka who had a mind of her own, back then and now, decided who she wanted to marry. Just like she must have decided on her foray into the world of politics just months before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Someone please ask ‘husband’ Robert Vadra to not take credit for Priyanka’s decisions.
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