Vanathi Srinivasan Versus Kamal Haasan: A Self-Made Woman From Grassroots Contesting Against The Hero Of Misogyny Masala

Vanathi Srinivasan Versus Kamal Haasan: A Self-Made Woman From Grassroots Contesting Against The Hero Of Misogyny MasalaVanathi Srinivasan versus Kamal Haasan.
Snapshot
  • The Coimbatore South assembly segment would see Kamal Haasan fighting against Vanathi Srinivasan of the BJP.

    It is indeed an irony of sorts that an intellectual and field worker like Srinivasan should contest against Kamal Hassan, whose means to fame are his misogynistic masala movies and Hollywood copycat films.

“I do not want to sound alarmist but releasing this book is not going to help you in anyway”.

That is actually an unconventional way to invite a politician for a book launch.

The book was about the gender diversity and gender minority rights.

The politician on the other end of the phone was Vanathi Srinivasan. The place where the book was to be released was a stall in the Hindu Spirituality fair.

Vanathi Srinivasan released the book by Gopi Shankar, a gender-minority rights activist. The year was 2014.

“I want to understand every stand and every point of view regarding such issues on which no proper light has been shed for decades,” she later said.

The incident was highlighted as a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader was releasing a book on LGBT rights.

Vanathi Srinivasan comes from a traditional farming family. Having studied in a government school, her academic and extra-curricular track record has been that of a go-getter. From securing first ranks to captaining teams, her involvement in social life started with ABVP – the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. A lawyer by profession, she joined the BJP in 1999.

Being in politics is only one aspect of her public life. She has been involved in many fields, adding new dimensions to her contributions to the society. This involves environment, water protection, food security, cultural awareness etc.

In 2017, Vanathi Srinivasan organised a unique event — a five-day 'Quench the Thirst' yatra. It was a campaign to desilt traditional water bodies for water conservation.

She along with volunteers got down to desilting the water bodies.

Credible environmental NGOs which have no political affiliation in the least helped her in the work. The campaign was a success in terms of environmental protection and water conservation.

In 2018, she was the brain behind the rath yatra to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Sister Nivedita.

The yatra reached out to all schools and colleges. It gave the important message of how Sister Nivedita’s Vedantic vision inspired Subramanya Bharathi, who in turn invigorated the women’s emancipation movement with his poetry.

Talking to Swarajya then, Srinivasan explained, "Sister Nivedita is very relevant. In fact, her relevance has grown much more today. A girl can shape her own destiny. She is no plaything in the hands of either patriarchy or consumerist culture. A girl, studying in a school or a college today, needs to discover in her the girl Subramanya Bharathi envisioned. And who is more relevant to instil in the girl that vision of Bharathi than Nivedita?”

She is also an enthusiastic collector of various points of views. Perhaps, she is one of the few politicians in the country who has held genuine dialogues with ideologues of opposing ideologies with a sincere wish to learn from them.

When asked why she would spend such time, she answered that if their criticisms were valid then there was nothing wrong in course correction.

It is another thing that such course-correcting criticisms never came from the ideological opponents of the political kind. There had only been content-less hate-criticism of the BJP.

At the same time, she had also conversed with non-party intellectuals of various world-views, including Marxist.

She states that these dialogues have helped her. In fact, according to her, such dialogues further made her understand and appreciate Hindutva and its depth.

During the lockdown, she came up with the idea of 'Modi kitchen' to specifically serve migrant workers and homeless people in Coimbatore city.

‘Modi Kitchen’, with a capacity to feed 500 people every day also has the capacity to deliver food for the needy in a radius of 10 kilometres.

Srinivasan also actively supports NGOs like ‘No Food Waste’ which collect unused surplus food and deliver it to the needy.

In all these achievements of Vanathi Srinivasan, her family has been a pillar of support. Her husband, a lawyer, has shown the society how to be of support and strength to a wife who is an achiever. He also comes from an ABVP background.

Vanathi Srinivasan personifies the opposite of everything Hindutva is caricatured with. It is difficult for a self-made woman (not a dynast), to survive in general Tamil Nadu polity. But in the Sangh Parivar and BJP ecosystem, it is a natural phenomenon.

Outside she has to face quite a lot of demonising campaigns which she has endured with dignity and patience.

Anyone having read Jeffrey Archer’s Prodigal Daughter would find a resonance between Florentina Kane and Vanathi Srinivasan.

It is indeed an irony of sorts that a true intellectual, a field worker and an asset to Tamil Nadu politics like Vanathi Srinivasan should contest against Kamal Haasan in Coimbatore South, when Haasan's only means to fame is his churning out of misogynistic masala movies and Hollywood copycat films, not to mention vacuous tweets with a pretense of intellectualism.

His possible defeat at the hands of Vanathi Srinivasan would show the world that Tamil Nadu voters respect quality and real action and not movie vanity.

Her possible victory in this election will encourage women of substance and intellectual grit to enter politics. It will make the political arena free of unhealthy tendencies of personal attacks and stereotyping.

It will pave the way for better dialogue among parties of opposing ideologies to have civilised dialogues for the betterment of the society. In short, she has all the positive qualities which today the polity in Tamil Nadu desperately needs.

Aravindan is a contributing editor at Swarajya.

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