“I always thought we would be discussing, debating important topics that impact my nation but we are seeing a logjam, where within 8 minutes, bills are passed. We are seeing if there’s any active voice of the opposition, that is being silenced and that is very disappointing. As a young parliamentarian I was hoping to contribute,” first time Member of parliament, the Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi tells Gulf News, days after the Budget session of parliament was washed out.
For many young MPs like her, the bitter political reality of the day has meant shorter sessions, fewer debates and less parliamentary oversight over crucial bills. In 2021’s Monsoon session, Chaturvedi was among 12 MPs who were suspended from the Upper House for alleged unruly conduct.
“If we speak up, we are either suspended or warned that if we speak up, there will be consequences,” Chaturvedi says to Gulf News.
More videos by Nidhi
- Watch Nidhi Razdan: Priyanka Chopra has blown the lid off Bollywood’s toxic culture
- Khushbu Sundar tells Nidhi Razdan: Why I stayed silent about sexual abuse
- Supriya Shrinate tells Nidhi Razdan: BJP relies heavily on falsehoods
- India's Parliament suffers shorter sessions, fewer debates and more antagonism
“We grew up seeing a Rajya Sabha holding intellectual debates and discussions, whether it was a P Chidambaram or Arun Jaitley. We don’t see that now. But I am also hopeful that if we continue to resist that kind of politics where the entire democracy is undermined, we continue to speak up about it, the few voices that we are, we will be able to to make a change. I always look at a glass half full,” she says.
From marketing to politics: Priyanka's journey
The 43 year old Priyanka Chaturvedi is today one of Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray's) most prominent faces. She effectively articulates the party’s stand on issues on television channels. In her previous avatar, she was a national spokesperson of the Congress where she stayed for 9 years before switching to the Shiv Sena in 2019.
Today she is a fiercely loyal member of the Uddhav Thackeray faction of the party following the split with Eknath Shinde. Her entry into politics from a marketing and communication role happened by chance.
“Politics happened to me when the 26/11 terror attacks happened. I started working with people who had lost family members. We hand-held them, a group of women bloggers, and that lead to me being a part of politics where I felt I could do alt more if I became a part of active politics,” she adds.
When she left to join the ideologically opposite Shiv Sena from the Congress in 2019, she faced a lot of flak. But she says today’s Shiv Sena is different.
“When I moved parties, that was to do with how women are being treated in a particular party as much as they might speak about gender equality and fighting for gender justice — that wasn’t coming as far as my individual case was concerned,” she tells us.
“I chose to join a regional party, from a state I belong to. However, the Shiv Sena has grown over time, has changed its perspective over time. What was the requirement at a particular decade may not be the requirement in this decade as far as people’s expectations are concerned.”
Priyanka Chaturvedi's call for change
Priyanka Chaturvedi is very vocal on women’s issues. When I asked her why she thinks Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) women MPs and ministers often stayed silent on issues affecting women, she said bringing more women into the fold would change that.
“I think reservations will help. The reason why women MPs don’t speak up and stick to the silos of their political parties is because there are not enough vocal women out there who look beyond their politics to look at gender as a cause for fighting for justice. But I believe if we have more women parliamentarians, more women in the assembly, then this would be prioritised.”
“Women bring their own perspective into policymaking. The minute we have more representation, we will see a change happen. Reservation is the need of the hour whether it comes through political parties like we have seen in the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) where they consciously reserve seats for women,” she says.
The mother to a 20-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter, Priyanka Chaturvedi says family is very important to her. As we count down to 2024, she is one of the faces to watch out for in the crucial state of Maharashtra.