In the fierce arena of male-dominated politics, where dynasties reign and legacies are fiercely guarded, a unique struggle unfolds. Picture this: a daughter, the sole offspring of a political titan, stands at the crossroads of tradition and ambition, battling not just rivals but entrenched notions of inheritance. Enter Supriya Sule, Sharad Pawar’s daughter, and Pankaja Munde, daughter of the late Gopinath Munde, the lone successors to their fathers’ political empire. Their path to claim their fathers’ legacies is fraught with challenges, with opponents wielding the age-old weapon of marital status in the election campaign. “Once married, a daughter should embrace her husband’s home, not her father’s political throne,” they say.

In Maharashtra’s political landscape, not only Supriya and Pankaja but also many daughters have asserted their political legacy, challenging the male chauvinism ingrained in society and facing criticism for claiming the political legacy of their fathers.

 Pankaja Munde

Pankaja Munde | Photo Credit: VIVEK BENDRE

Rupali Chakankar, a key leader in the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) led by Ajit Pawar, recently stirred the pot by suggesting that once daughters are married, they should not meddle in their father’s home. Her target was Supriya Sule, the three-time MP from Baramati and daughter of NCP-SP stalwart Sharad Pawar. Ironically, Rupali Chakankar is the chairperson of the Maharashtra State Commission for Women.

The plot thickened with the party split, as Supriya’s cousin and Deputy Chief Minister, Ajit Pawar, threw a curveball by fielding his wife Sunetra against Supriya in the upcoming elections. In a veiled jab at Supriya, Ajit Pawar called on Baramati voters to maintain their unwavering support for the Pawar family, hinting that Supriya is no more Pawar , but is Sule after marriage.

The Message

Pankaja, the eldest daughter of the late BJP leader Gopinath Munde, has faced similar challenges and discrimination. Gopinath Munde had handed over the political baton to his daughter, and his nephew Dhananjay chose to part ways. In 2014, Pankaja sent a strong message by performing her father’s last rites and announcing that she would continue to use her father’s surname rather than her husband’s surname, Palve. She declared herself the inheritor of her father’s legacy and is contesting the Beed Lok Sabha seat on a BJP ticket.

Congress MLA Praniti Shinde, daughter of former Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde

Congress MLA Praniti Shinde, daughter of former Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde | Photo Credit: PTI

Praniti Shinde, the daughter of former Chief Minister of Maharashtra Sushilkumar Shinde, is also facing intense criticism as she contests the Solapur Lok Sabha seat. Praniti, seen as her father’s political successor, is viciously targeted for not marrying. She expressed concerns that her opponents might resort to character assassination as the campaign intensifies. Bhawana Gawali has emerged as a prominent figure, representing the Shiv Sena as a three-time MP from Yavatmal-Washim. She has bravely carried forward her father’s political legacy in a challenging environment.

Gender Norms

Similarly, in Mumbai, MP Poonam Mahajan, daughter of late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan, and former MP Priya Dutt, daughter of late Congress leader Sunil Dutt, have also taken the reins of their fathers’ political legacies. Interestingly, while their brothers chose to stay away from politics, these dynamic women embraced the challenge wholeheartedly. Priya Dutt’s journey is particularly striking. When her brother, actor Sanjay Dutt, expressed an interest in politics some years ago, he suggested that Priya should not continue using their father’s surname after marriage and seek votes as Dutt.

“Traditional gender norms in India often dictate that a woman’s primary role is within her marital household, and she should prioritise her husband’s family over her paternal home. It is unfortunate that this backward mentality still prevails and comes up in election campaigns. We still have not evolved as a mature society,” says Sneha Pawar, a voter from Baramati.