BENGALURU : Bengaluru-based Rupa Rani – Karnataka president of the newly-launched National Women’s Party – has always stood up for herself and other women in distress: Right from childhood when she wore trousers, despite being told only boys wear the outfit, to her college days when she took a stand against those ragging her and her female classmates. It’s no surprise that the now 47-year-old isn’t just a part of the party fighting for women’s rights but is also the Karnataka president for the same. The party comprising of 1.45 lakh members aims to resolves issues such as reservation for women in parliament and women’s rights.
Safety, she says, is an issue plaguing politics. Before joining the NWP, Rani was a party member with various parties, and this entailed occasional late night party meetings. She often asked her husband to accompany her for the same, as an added security measure. “Despite this, other male members would make me inappropriate offers. If you are a woman aspiring to be in a position of power, you often receive offers to bed someone or pay a huge sum of money to get the position you want,” says Rani, adding that sometimes, the amount can go up to `30 crore for the same.
Rani no longer asks her husband to accompany her for meetings and feels much safer with an all-women group. She adds that they take several measures to ensure group safety, such as travelling together in a mini bus, not allowing party members to be alone and avoiding late night meetings as much as possible.
Currently, the party is trying to form an alliance with as many women-oriented organisations as they can, in order to spread awareness about their goals and encourage more women to join the party. The official website for the party will be launched later this month, post which, they will also build their social media channels to educate more people. While the road to achieving this goal may be difficult, Rani says the party is determined in doing right by the women of the country.
While choosing a candidate from each district, the party ensures they are careful with their selection, as members being poached is also a possible threat they could face. “Right now, our party is in the baby stage. But in the future, members from other parties might offer our members more money or incentives to get them to change their alliance. So we need to select our members with care. We also plan to approach women who backed out of politics because they suffered in major parties,” explains Rani.
While NWP may be an all women’s party, they do hope for 70-30 women to male support ratio. Rani recalls how a friend told her the party shouldn’t just focus on women supporters since men too were keen on lending a hand. In fact, it was a male friend who gave the idea of a Girls’ Youth Wing, which NWP hopes to start soon. “My husband and Swetha Shetty’s (who helms the party) husband have always been supportive of us. They may be behind the scenes but their support matters a lot. We need men to support women, only then can we work together to make a change,” she says.
Working with single-minded focus
The party has one aim in mind at the moment: 50 per cent reservation for women in politics. To begin with, they want to get the Reservation Bill passed first, which guarantees 33 per cent reservation for women. “Why can’t we pass this bill that will allow more women in the field? When it comes to voting, we see more women taking part in the process than men. So, why should women continue to vote without being assured of some power to make a change? Without power, one runs from pillar-to-post,” says Rani.