It is possibly the only party with entirely urban roots; it has a track record of taking up women’s issues with priority and carries a perception that it is an equal opportunity party. But Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seems to belie all expectations by fielding just five women candidates of the 56 names declared so far.
Though women constitute 48% of the total electors in Delhi, they have always got a raw deal from the mainstream political parties -- be it the ruling Congress or the Bhartaiya Janta Party. AAP has proved no different when it comes to sending women to the legislature.
In the 2008 assembly elections, the Congress had fielded just eight women. Just three of them — including chief minister Sheila Dikshit — won. BJP’s record was even worse. It had fielded just four, none won.
In fact, nine is the highest number of women MLAs that Delhi had sent to the assembly in 1998. There were three women MLAs in the first term of the assembly in 1993 and seven in the third term in 2003.
There is no intra-party policy on fielding women candidates. AAP too is toeing the line of its seasoned political rivals. “Our focus always has been anti-corruption (so) there was no thought given separately to the women’s issue. Plus, there is no decision as yet about intra- party seat reservation for women,” said Manish Sisodia, AAP’s spokesperson.
Former television journalists Shazia Ilmi (RK Puram) and Rakhi Birla (Mangolpuri) along with social workers Bandana Kumari (Shalimar Bagh), Farhana Anjum (Ballimaran) and Veena Anand (Patel Nagar) are the five women of AAP.
Santosh Koli, who was declared the party candidate from Seemapuri but died in an accident was replaced by her brother. Of the remaining seats, the list of probables shortlisted for about five seats does not have any women. “We will try to bring forth as many women as possible,” said Sisodia.
When pointed out that even AAP had not given adequate representation to women, Ranjana Kumari, director of Centre for Social Research, said: They are no different. All political parties are male-dominated. Even the general membership has very few women. More women MLAs would mean better governance on issues for women. There would be more power to women.”
Defending his party, Sisodia said AAP had ensured that one of the two coordinators for any local unit is a woman. The party had formed a women’s security force after the December 16 gang rape. Almost every constituency has a team of people — both men and women — who have registered for this force.
“As and when needed, whenever there is a woman-related issue, our volunteers take it up with full force,” said a party leader. It was evident in the case of a five-year-old’s rape in Gandhi Nagar where AAP volunteers and party workers stormed the police station and forced the police to register an FIR.