For a state which fares poorly in sex ratio, Punjab may not be the best candidate to boast of fair representation to women in state polls. Yet, from eight women candidates in 1967, when the first election after reorganisation of Punjab was held, to 93 in the 2012 polls, the state seemed to have come a long way.
But, as stakes for all political parties have gone up for the February 4 elections, the number of women candidates has fallen to less than a third of last time. The tally of female nominees fielded by the state’s four main political parties is 27, just 7.7% of their 350 candidates.
The 2012 polls not only saw the highest number of women bagging tickets, a record 14 made it to the state assembly. It was the first time the number of women MLAs touched a double-digit figure. In the 2007 elections, 56 women were in fray, of which seven had won.
In the numbers game, the Congress has fared better than the others. It has been able to keep the number of women candidates to 11, its tally in the last elections. But for a party that has promised to reserve 33% seats in educational institutes and jobs for women after coming to power, copying the poll promise of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, the figure does not add up to even 10% of the total 117 seats.
- Only 39 female politicians have been elected to the state assembly in 11 elections held since 1966
- Not a single woman candidate got elected in 1969
- Women constitute about 47% of total electors
Party’s four sitting women MLAs have made way for the men in the family -- husbands, sons and even brother-in-law. Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh and his wife (former Union minister) Preneet Kaur did a swap of sorts after he won the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat in 2014 and she lost Patiala. She won the Patiala urban seat in the bypoll but has opted out for her husband this time.
So has former BJP MLA Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who has left her seat for husband, former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu. MP Partap Bajwa wife Charanjit Kaur Bajwa has made way for her brother-in-law and MLA Guriqbal Kaur for son. Among those in fray, three candidates are from the wives’ club --- Razia Sultana, wife of top cop Mohammad Mustafa, Karan Brar, wife of former MLA Sunny Brar and Manju Bansal, wife of former minister Mangat Rai Bansal. Four women have been pitched from reserved seats. Karamjit Kaur, wife of Jalandhar MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary, has opted out for her son from Phillaur (reserved).
The AAP, which comes after Congress is number of seats being contested (112) --- it has left five seats for the party of Ludhiana-based Bains brothers -- has fielded nine women candidates. It has kept the age profile younger by fielding two daughters in addition to a wife. Ghanaur candidate Anu Randhawa is daughter of former Congress minister Jasjit Randhawa and Sanaur candidate Kuldeep Kaur Tohra is daughter of Akali stalwart Gurcharan Singh Tohra. Party’s Dera Bassi candidate, Sarbjit Kaur, is wife of former SAD minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh. Of the remaining six, four have been fielded on reserved seats.
The SAD, which contests 94 seats, has fielded five against 10 last time. Its most firebrand MLA, Jagir Kaur, could not be renominated from her seat Bholath following her conviction in “conspiracy to murder” her daughter. Her seat has passed on to her son-in-law. The SAD has renominated sitting MLA Mohinder Kaur Josh, daughter of Akali leader Arjun Singh Josh, from Sham Chaurasi (SC) seat. Of the remaining four, two have been fielded from reserved seats. Its ally BJP, which contests 23 seats, has lost a sitting MLA in Navjot Kaur Sidhu. Against three candidates it fielded last time, it has retained its other two sitting women MLAs in the list.