By now, you’ve read it all. The jubilation that usually stays cozy in regional elections has spread across the nation because as we all know—AAP/ Arvind Kejriwal’s win represents a far deeper shift in Indian politics than surface analytics dare even conjecture about. A shift in our narrative, a marked middle finger in the face of ‘personality politics,’ and more importantly, an opposition party with no previous history of governance in the country is actually being allowed to exist in a newly forged third space. All signs of tremendous progress for Indian politics, especially voters’ ideologies and there are more than enough publications giving it due importance, whether they’re congratulatory or skeptical. However, we had our own favourite part of the entire day’s celebrations, and it has everything to do with Kejriwal’s wife of 20 years, Sunita.
Having won from New Delhi constituency by a whopping 31583 votes yesterday, the visibly ecstatic Chief Ministerial candidate actually hugged his wife and tweeted his first picture from the party office with her thanking her for having stood by him all these years. His exact words, “Thank u Sunita for always being there “@rsaraf007: Sunita Kejriwal and @ArvindKejriwal first pics after winning”. Further more, when addressing party workers and joyous voters from the balcony, he took his wife with him and introduced her to the people, publicly respecting all that she has done for him
With an arm around her shoulders, he told frenzied crowds that “this is my wife,” and the positive response was heartening to see in a country which is known to suppress its women’s successes. “I have dragged her here today,” he continued, referring to Sunita’s extremely rare appearances at such events, even as Sunita flashed a V sign for victory. “I told her the government will not take any action... I would not have been able to achieve anything without her. I can do nothing alone, I am a small man.”
Even in this spoof Arnub video below, Arvind speaks of his wife with tremendous fondness, discussing how they first met at the National Academy of Administration at Mussoorie, and how he first proposed, maintaining respectfulness at every step of the way. Aside from being incredibly sporting in the video, subjecting himself to an in-person impersonator, prickly barbs and good-natured ribbing, the fact that he held his own, was able to laugh at himself and still stay respectful to his wife throughout was something we’ve never seen from our Indian politicians.
Rather than attempting to pin point even a single other politician who has shown the same public acknowledgement, it’s easier to examine the chasm between Kejriwal’s treatment of his wife and Modi’s—who only spoke of her existence under oath, when he was sworn into his position as Prime Minister. Of course, they have been estranged for years but the secrecy that veils that is still a matter of concern when it comes to women’s issues in the country.
A hug and a thanks should perhaps be the most basic sense of courtesy, not worthy of even opinion however, in India, there is a deep need for more of it. In the case of Kejriwal, this public display of respect to his partner is particularly relevant given the accusations levied against the party in the past which suggest that they may be no different on matters of Patriarchy and gender stereotyping from the BJP or Congress. That the AAP has very few leading women in power, not to mention the Somnath Bharti controversy in which he allegedly ‘beat up of african women’ during a midnight raid in South Delhi a few months ago has still not been cleared up, not to mention Kejriwal’s poor ability to handle the issue, hasn’t been lost on any of us. Moreover, one of their major challenges during paanch saal Kejriwal is going to be providing greater safety for women in the the capital so if this is the message he’s willingly giving out, there’s a sign of positive things to come.
Though he may have acknowledged the notion that behind every Aam Aadmi, there is an Aam Aurat, we’d like to see AAP challenge that status quo even more and put men and women back on equal footing.
Words: Mandovi Menon