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Parties seek women’s votes but not representation in Assembly

| | Chandigarh
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Parties seek women’s votes but not representation in Assembly

Wednesday, 09 October 2019 | MANOJ KUMAR | Chandigarh

In Haryana, political parties are not fair with the fairer sex when it comes to the Assembly elections. The real culprits were national and State political parties which showed little faith in women candidates.

A total of 1,168 candidates will contest election for 90 seats in the State Assembly polls, scheduled to be held on October 21.  Out of 1,168, the political parties in the State have fielded less than 50 women candidates this time. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded 12, Congress 9, Indian National Lok Dal (NLD) 15, Swaraj India 5, Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) 7 women candidates. However, parties had fielded 115 women candidates in the Assembly elections 2014 and 13 had won.

Women wings of various political parties, including BJP and Congress had demanded at least 33 per cent tickets given to women candidates, who are often “sidelined” while nominating party candidates. Despite this, in Assembly election 2019, few women were given ticket. As nomination of candidates have been completed and Haryana gets ready to elect a new legislative Assembly this month, not many women have been figured in the list.

Sudha Bhardwaj, acting president of Mahila Congress party said, “We had sent a list of 33 per cent women candidates’ names to the party high command but party has not given tickets to all of them.”  She said that it is equally true that several factors are being looked into when tickets are being distributed among party leaders and workers. One of the factors is winnable candidate. “We would fight to give adequate representation” to women candidates based on their political background and potential voter base. The process would have been a lot easier had there been a constitutional provision for it.” she added.

The chairperson of Haryana State Commission for Women Pratibha Suman said that all the political parties should give tickets to its women leaders. Before the elections, parties are making promises but when it comes to give tickets, woman candidates are not considered winnable candidate.

The list of candidates’ of various political parties revealed the BJP has fielded 12 women candidates while the Congress has given tickets to 10 for elections to the 90-member Haryana Assembly, according to the lists released by the two parties. The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), which had earlier said it will give 33 per cent tickets to women, has fielded 15 female candidates. Fledgling Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), a breakaway of the INLD, has fielded seven women. Prominent among the women candidates of the BJP are international wrestler Babita Phogat from Dadri, Prem Lata, wife of former Union minister Birender Singh, from Uchana Kalan; minister Kavita Jain from Sonipat; actress Sonali Phogat from Adampur; Latika Sharma from Kalka; and Seema Trikha from Badkhal.

From Punhana assembly segment in Muslim-dominated Mewat district, the BJP has fielded Nauksham Chaudhary (28), a postgraduate in history from Miranda House, Delhi University. The BJP denied tickets to a few sitting women MLAs, including Rohita Rewri from Panipat, Santosh Yadav from Ateli and Santosh Sarwan from Mullana. The 10 women candidates fielded by the Congress are: senior party leader Kiran Chaudhary from Tosham, Shakuntla Khatak from Kalanaur, Geeta Bhukkal from Jhajjar, Renu Bala from Sadhaura, Shalley from Naraingarh, Nirmal from Yamunanagar, Vidya Rani from Narwana, Venu Singla from Ambala, Navjot Kashyap from Indri and Bala Devi from Uklana seat.

JJP leader Dushyant Chautala has fielded his mother Naina Chautala from Badhra seat. She is pitted against Congress candidate Ranbir Singh Mahendra, son of former Haryana chief minister Bansi Lal. Swaraj Party has fielded 28 candidates out of which only five are women.

Sonakshi Sharma, Rohtak based social activist said that parties talk about empowering women but when time comes to giving ticket they give to those who are winnable. The national parties should be true to their words and must follow what they are propagating for women empowerment. Anushka Choudhary, a student of Political science, Punajb University (PU), Chandigarh said that during election, parties ask votes from women but do not give their equal representative in politics. Women are considered political lightweights by the party leadership that expects them to “prove their leadership qualities despite years of grassroots experience. “Muscle-power and money-play” work against women politicians, who find it difficult to rise within the organisational circles.

She further said that low numbers are primarily due to the patriarchal attitude prevalent in the state, where women are seen as mainly good for working in the fields and looking after the family. Gender discrimination and gender injustice can be seen at two levels in Haryana politics. First at the

time of giving them tickets while finalising of nomination, where they are ignored and second when they dare to fight polls as Independent candidates. Sonali Singh, native of Ambala and another student of PU said political parties by and large shy away from providing a level-playing field to women ticket seekers. Gender discrimination starts from within the parties, which are reluctant to issue tickets to women candidates and this is unfortunate, especially since women have played a very active role in each field.  She said that in the recently held Parliamentary election, only two of more than 2.000 political parties in the country had taken serious steps to give women a chance this year.  Odisha’s Biju Janata Dal had given 33 per cent reservation for women in allotting party tickets while West Bengal’s Trinamool Congress had allocated more than 40 per cent of its Lok Sabha candidates to female. Even when it comes to voting, women have historically played a relatively subdued role, she added.

A BJP woman leader said that male leaders take the centrestage while dealing with the party’s national leaders. They do not even allow us to welcome national leaders at helipad. “Much remains to be done by parties in terms of providing adequate representation to women within their organisational setup.  There are a number of women in the party who are active at the grassroots level and have strong political background (to qualify for tickets. The wing should raise the matter with the party’s state leadership and will take up the demand with the central leadership soon.” She further said that she will seek intervention of senior party leaders for reserving at least 33 per cent tickets for them to contest the ensuing assembly polls.

On condition of anonymity, Hisar based BJP leader said, “The party conducted a survey in which I was the leading candidate, but they gave preference to a male candidate over me.” Normally, party gives ticket to woman leader from where she will lose, she added.

As per the data of the State Election Commission, a total of 93 female candidates had contested elections to Haryana Vidhan Sabha in 1996 and out of them only four were elected. This was followed by 68 in 2005 when 11 female candidates were elected.  As many as 49 female candidates contested in the year 2000 and out of them four were elected.

 Interestingly, in the first assembly elections of the State held in 1967, only eight female candidates had contested and out of them only four were declared elected. In 1968 only 12 women had contested and seven of them were declared elected. As many as 20 and 12 female candidates contested in the years 1977 and 1972 respectively and out of them four each were elected. In the year 1991, 41 female candidates contested and only six of them were elected.

 Similarly in 1987, 35 female candidates contested the assembly polls and five of them were elected. In 1982, as many as 27 female candidates had contested and seven of them were elected. Among those women who contested the assembly elections in 2014, 10 represented the Indian National Congress, 16 contested as candidates of  INlD, 15 of BJP, 5 of HJC (Bl) and six as candidates of Bahujan Samaj Party. Among others, 12 women had contested as candidates of Haryana lokhit Party and 4 of Haryana Jan Chetna Party (V). According to voters polled in 2014, candidate Rohita Rewari of BJP who contested from Panipat city polled a maximum of 63.5 per cent votes.  A minimum of 30.3 percent votes were in favor of Santosh Chauhan Sarwan of BJP who contested from Mullana.

Till now only three women have become independent MLAs. Three women have become independent MLAs. They are Sharada Rani from Ballabgarh in 1982, Meritorious from Jhajjar in 1987 and Shakuntala Bhagwadia Independent MLA from Bawal in 2005.

Congress has the highest female MLA 44 times from 1967 to 2014 while 11 times from BJP, 6 times from Janata Dal and INLD, 4 times from Janata Party, twice from Vishal Party, twice from Havipa, once each.The State Election Commission figure revealed that out of the 90 seats in the State, 58 seats are such that no female legislator has ever been made. The most number of women MLAs from Kalanaur Vidhan Sabha.

Political analyst says that the name of former Union Foreign Minister late Sushma Swaraj is taken to the forefront in Haryana politics. But in 1972, Chandravati defeated then Chief Minister Bansi Lal to stir up the politics of the State.  

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