Recently concluded municipal elections in Pune saw no party gaining clear mandate though NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) topped the seat tally and has formed post-election alliance with Congress to gain majority. Citizens were quite fed up with NCP-Congress alliance that ruled last 5 years when overall living conditions and quality of civic amenities moved from bad to worse. This partly reflected with NCP, largest party gaining merely one third i.e. 51 seats out of 152.
However opposition was too weak to take advantage of this. Shiv Sena leaders were too occupied with Mumbai municipal elections where loosing the power would have dealt severe blow to its shrinking influence while BJP was plagued with factionalism. Kind of vacuum created by this led to a rather unexpected surge in MNS (Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, a regional chauvinist party split from Shiv Sena) seats that emerged second claiming 28 seats. Raj Thackarey, the leader of MNS with his aggressive style and an image cult around himself, has been drawing crowds of youths for past few years. While Marathi youths have been betrayed for long by similar chauvinist politics of Shiv Sena, MNS is playing same cards.
Past one decade has seen an explosion of construction activities in the city and property prices have gone up 5 times or higher. Along with this rampant commercialization of education, health has led to large scale proletarization however an absence of political alternative has only pushed the youth and working class of Pune into the lap of right wing parties. CPI, CPI(M) have no mass base in the city and other left trade unions with relatively better representation among working class have reduced their presence to mere trade unionism without any political engagement. Though they may not be strong enough to gain power, they are definitely in the position to mobilize support to win few seats and offer an alternative to the working people but are too content in their safe zones.
It was first time that Pune saw more women corporators elected than men, bagging 78 out of 152 municipal corporation. While this trend is welcome, a deeper look exposes its limitation. Most of these women candidates are from established political families and have gained candidature as a proxy to their male counterparts. This was best exemplified in Mayor’s election. 2 female candidates Vaishali Bankar and Shashikala Kodre from NCP were competing for the post. While former is daughter-in-law of erstwhile corporator Datta Bankar, latter is daughter-in-law of ex. corporator Kailas Kodre. In fact precisely 17 years back both Datta Bankar and Kailas Kodre contested each other for exactly same post of Mayorship; and now it is their daughter-in-laws. Similarly, Pimpri-Chinchwad municipal corporation (another city in Pune district) elected Mohini Lande, the wife of MLA Vilas Lande as Mayor.
This thoroughly exposes hollowness of parliamentary provisions of women empowerment under the present capitalist system with its compliance with feudal institutions like caste, patriarchy and dynasticism. A real emancipation of women would not be achieved without the overthrow of capitalism – landlordism.