Notwithstanding their tall claims of empowering women, political parties in Madhya Pradesh have let them down in nominations for the November 27 state assembly polls.
Despite 47 per cent voters out of total 35.9 million electors being women, both the main political parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, which have been advocating 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, have been miserly in fielding them.
Going by statistics, women voters would play an important role in deciding most seats as there are 16,997,199 female voters in the state. The parties have been seeking 33 per cent reservation for women in all local municipal bodies.
The BJP has fielded 24 women (11 per cent) in a house of 230 in the upcoming elections and the Congress 29 women (13 per cent).
The position of women in the two parties headed by women - Uma Bharti's Bhartiya Jan Shakti (BJS) and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) - is even worse. They have fielded only 16 and 13 women candidates respectively. The Samajwadi Party has given tickets to 14 women.
The BJP, which has been boasting about its government having increased women's representation in panchayats and civic bodies to 50 per cent from 33 per cent, was found wanting in displaying the same spirit in the assembly elections.
The heads of women wings of both the BJP and the Congress had been demanding at least one female candidate from each district if not 33 per cent, but to no avail. They had even prepared a list of probable candidates.
In the assembly elections in 2003, there were 37 million voters and about 18 million of them exercised their franchise. Over 11.2 million of those voting were women, which meant over 62 per cent. The Congress then had fielded 32 women and the BJP 18.
This time, in all 381 women had filed their nominations for Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, but 112 nominations were rejected and 49 women withdrew their names. Finally, a total of 220 women are in the fray.
State BJP spokesperson Archana Chitnis, who is contesting from Burhanpur, said that the BJP had in the last elections fielded only 18 candidates and this time there number has increased to 23.
"I am confident the representation would further improve," she said and claimed that the BJP had always fielded women candidates for strong seats, of which almost 90 per cent candidates reach the house.