Actor Urmila Matondkar quits Congress, Why young women leaders find it difficult to survive in Congress?

Despite their popularity and hard work, women with no political background or mentor are at the receiving end of misogynistic and dismissive behavior from their party and society.

Months before Maharashtra assembly elections, Urmila Matondkar resigns from the Congress party. Urmila resigned on Tuesday 10 September, citing ” petty in-house politics” as the primary reason.

In a statement, Matondkar said: “My political and social sensibilities refuse to allow vested interests in the party to use me as a mean to fight petty in-house politics instead of working on a bigger goal in Mumbai Congress.”

Urmila, a hugely popular and successful Bollywood actress joined Congress 5 months ago and contested the Mumbai North Lok Sabha elections unsuccessfully against Bharatiya Janata Party MP Gopal Shetty.

Urmila´s departure is not good news for congress which has already many leaders dissatisfied with party leadership and looking to jump ships after its poor performance in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Urmila had criticised the party leadership in the state earlier in a letter to Milin Deora, the then Mumbai Congress chief, Matondkar in July 2019. She has complained about the close associates of Sanjay Nirupam, for their conduct during the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections. She said the duo has shown a “total lack of coordination, honesty, and efficiency, ensuring a disastrous outcome”.

Why Congress cannot retain young and outspoken women leaders?

Urmila is not the first women leader to have quit from Congress in the last one year.

Before the 2019 elections, Priyanka Chaturvedi, General Secretary of Indian Youth Congress also quit Congress. She had expressed her dismay about UPCC (Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee) reinstating some party workers who were earlier suspended for their unruly behavior with her. She later joined Shiv Sena party.

Chaturvedi had famously taken a dig at Smriti Irani on filing a false affidavit of her educational credentials by singing a parody to the theme of Irani’s previous TV serial Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi as “Kyuki Mantri Bhi Kabhi Graduate Thi”.

Divya Spandana aka Ramya, Kannada actress turned politician was also shown cold shoulder in the Karnataka congress despite being a one time MP from Mandya constituency. To her credit, she won 2013 by-election with a comfortable margin. She contested the 2014 Lok sabha election again on congress ticket and lost with a narrow margin. She was quite popular in the region but none of the congress leaders including Ambareesh supported or campaigned for her.

Later in 2017, Ramya was given the role of chief of the All India Congress Committee’s social media wing in May 2017. She is credited for turning around the party’s online presence compared to the BJP, which had a robust IT cell already. She is also known for her sharp and witty responses to the BJP and directly criticizing the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo. Due to her outspoken and vocal stance on social media, she was targetted heavily by Modi supporters and social media trolls. During these smear campaigns also Karnataka Congress didn’t come out in her support. A month ago, she has also resigned from her social media in-charge and deactivated her twitter, facebook and Instagram accounts.

As congress spokespersons, they managed to breach the social media landscape that was mainly occupied by BJP and Hindutva forces. Both Ramya and Chaturvedi discussed and defended congress policies on social media. They were quite vocal critics of Modi, Amit Shah, and Smriti Irani.

Being young women, Urmila, Priyanka, and Ramya were targetted on social media and were not taken seriously by their own party men. There is already paucity of women leaders in politics. Congress, the grand old party is already accused of propagating dynasty politics, though other parties are no different. Most of the political space is occupied by old men, their children or Yes- men. Despite their popularity and hard work, women with no political background or mentor are at the receiving end of misogynistic and dismissive behavior from their party and society. This does not set a good model for any political party or young aspiring politicians.

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