Better halves are playing a key role in the election campaign in Jharkhand.
The wives of former chief ministers Arjun Munda and Madhu Koda have taken charge of their husbands' election campaigns, while the wife of Shibu Soren is expected to follow suit, as Soren is recuperating in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi.
Arjun Munda's wife Meera is wooing the voters, particularly women, during her rallies. Arjun Munda is fighting for the Jamshedpur Lok Sabha seat. He takes on sitting Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) MP Suman Mahto, the wife of MP Sunil Mahto who was killed by Maoist rebels in March 2007. Suman Mahto won the seat in a byelection.
Meera walks several kilometres in a day to interact with people and apprise them with details of the work done by her husband when he was chief minister. She has addressed more than 15 small rallies in different parts of Jamshedpur seeking votes for her husband.
Though Meera is a housewife and has little interest in politics, she is keen to see her husband win. The Mundas have three children - one is in college while two are in school. Meera tries to strike a balance by participating in the poll campaign as well as taking care of her two younger children.
"The wife is the strength of her husband. It is the duty of a woman to help her husband in his good work. I am proud to be the wife of Arjun Munda who has done a lot of work for the people as chief minister," Meera told IANS.
Madhu Koda's wife, Geeta Koda, has taken charge of her husband's election campaign. Koda is contesting from Singhbhum as an independent. He is taking on sitting Congress MP Bagun Sumbarai.
Geeta Koda addresses people in rural areas and urges them to vote for her husband. "My husband is a grass roots leader and I try to impress on people that their problem will be solved if my husband is elected," she said.
JMM chief Shibu Soren is fighting the Lok Sabha election from Dumka as well as the Jamatara assembly byelection. Soren, who is being treated at AIIMS for his cardiac and urinal problems, will not be available for campaigning. His wife Rupi Soren is likely to step in for the purpose. Rupi, a housewife, has been seen with her husband at election and party rallies.
"We are chalking out our election strategy. Rupi Soren could be used in the election campaign in Dumka and other constituencies too. Her joining the campaign will have a deep impact on voters as Guruji (as Shibu Soren is popularly called) is in hospital," a JMM leader told IANS.
There are other political wives too in the fray.
Rekha Sahay, the wife of union Food Processing Minister Subodh Kant Sahay, is likely to campaign in favour of her husband.
Suchitra Sinha, the wife of former Bihar minister Nagmani, is campaigning for her husband who is fighting on the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) ticket from Chatra.
Nilima Sinha, the wife of former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha, is managing the election campaign for her husband, who is fighting the Hazaribagh Lok Sabha seat. Nilima draws up her husband's poll campaign schedule and looks after other campaign work like preparing banners and posters.
Likewise Bharti Singh is managing the poll campaign for her husband, Samresh Singh, a former Jharkhand minister and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate from Dhanbad. Her husband was arrested when he went to file his nomination papers in a four-year-old case.
What is interesting is that only one woman candidate has been fielded by the mainline political parties.
The JMM has fielded Suman Mahto from Jamshedpur. In contrast, the Congress denied a ticket to its sitting woman MP from Khuti, Sushila Kerketta.
The impact of woman power will be known when election results are declared May 16.
The polls will be held in Jharkhand April 16 and 23.