Call it a deep-entrenched patriarchal bias or plain hypocrisy of political parties who routinely swear by their demand for 33 per cent reservation to women in Parliament.
Only seven women candidates have been fielded for 28 Lok Sabha seats up for grabs in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and the Union Territory of Chandigarh. Of these, Congress has fielded four, SAD two and BJP one. And, most women candidates typically come from established political families.
While Haryana and Punjab —– the two states notorious for the lowest sex ratio in the country — have a few women candidates, there is none in HP. In fact, there are fewer women candidates this time than in 2004.
“It is a male fiefdom. Politicians pay lip service to gender equality, but don't want to share power with them," says Women's Resource and Advocacy Centre Director Dr Pam Rajput.
Punjab, which is among the few states to have had a woman chief minister, has only four female candidates — two each from the Congress and SAD — in 13 constituencies. Though some women candidates have been elected to the Lok Sabha in the past, most belonged to political clans. Be it two-time Patiala MP Perneet Kaur, wife of former CM Capt Amarinder Singh, or three-time MP Santosh Chaudhary, who also comes from a family with strong Congress leanings.
Similarly, SAD, which is contesting 10 seats, has political greenhorn Harsimrat Kaur, daughter-in-law of CM Parkash Singh Badal, as its candidate from the Bathinda constituency to take on arch rival Amarinder's son Raninder Singh in a battle for political supremacy.
Paramjit Kaur Gulshan has been fielded from Faridkot reserved seat. The BJP, which is fighting the remaining three seats, has no woman candidate. The CPI, CPI(M) and BSP, too, have not fielded any woman.
In Haryana, there are only three women candidates in 10 constituencies. The Congress has fielded three-time MP and Union minister Selja from Ambala reserved constituency and newcomer Shruti Choudhry from Bhiwani-Mahendergarh. Both come from well-known political families. While Selja is the daughter of four-time MP late Dalbir Singh, Shruti is the granddaughter of former CM late Bansi Lal and daughter of former minister late Surender Singh. Her mother Kiran Choudhry is Minister of State for Tourism in the present regime. Dr Sudha Yadav, a Kargil martyr's widow who got elected to Parliament on a huge sympathy wave in 1999, is the BJP candidate from Gurgaon.
The INLD, which is contesting five seats in alliance with BJP, has not opted for any woman candidate.
In HP, none of the major parties have opted for a woman nominee in any of the four constituencies. In fact, sitting MP Pratibha Singh in Mandi opted out citing “personal reasons” following which her husband, former CM Virbhadra Singh, has been fielded.
"Though I am against reservation of all kinds, 33 per cent quota for women in Parliament seems to be the only way for women to get their due," Dr Rajput said.