The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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It was not quite the dance of the three graces perhaps, but it certainly was epoch-making. Hundreds of women clapping and swinging to the rhythm of “Hum honge kamyaab ek din” in Talkatora Stadium with Ms Sonia Gandhi setting the pace must have been a startling sight for sore eyes. The women delegates from all over the country, especially from the Congress-ruled states, who had gathered at the Mahila Sashaktikaran Adhiveshan, could not have foreseen that they would be making a new kind of history. It was women’s empowerment with a vengeance. No one was to be left out of this rhythmic ecstasy; Ms Sheila Dixit, Ms Renuka Chowdhury, Ms Margaret Alva and all the other redoubtable ladies of the Congress shook a leg, never mind that this would make an unprecedented impression on the dais. If anyone has any doubt about the distinctive mark that women were making on politics in India, they just have to listen to the music. Spontaneity seems to well up in music where women are concerned: Parliament was once held spellbound as the unlikely trio of Ms Malini Bhattacharya, Ms Mamata Banerjee and Geeta Mukherjee held hands and sang a soul-stirring song. Evidently the three graces can be of virulently different political persuasions.

It is unlikely that the Congress president had had such an experience of perfect rapport with an audience before. The headiness of the moment apart, there must have been some reassurance that, at least for a large number of women, her country of origin or her place as leader are not issues. All that shall be overcome. That would not be surprising, considering that weatherbeaten Congressmen, conditioned to do as their president does but along the hoary traditions of male-designed political etiquette, felt they must do a couple of pirouettes too. No one would have thought that the likes of Mr Motilal Vohra or Mr Shivraj Patil had so much dance in them. There is no doubt that the issues of the meeting, women’s legal equality, education, health and employment, would gain much from an infusion of positive energy. But whether part of that energy can flow from one day’s frenzied harmony is yet to be tested.

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