India could choose its first-ever female president today. But the candidate in question, a 72-year-old grandmother, has stirred up a veritable political storm. Pratibha Patil, a state governor, was a last minute choice by the ruling coalition. That alone has not gone down well, especially with newspaper columnist Shubha Singh. “She was obviously chosen just because she is a woman and in a last minute decision,” said Singh.
Scandals, and a habit of putting her foot in her mouth, have not helped her campaign. Among them, the women’s bank she founded, closed down amid financial irregularities, and a comment that people with hereditary diseases should be sterilised.
She is no press darling, as Asian Age magazine’s Seema Mustafa makes clear: “She is what an Indian woman should not be. She covers her head. She makes regressive comments about justifying the covering of her head. She wears long clothes and she does everything which is not a progressive Indian woman.”
Patil says the attacks are all politically motivated. But politicians are still likely to choose her as their ceremonial figurehead over the present vice-president.