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Desperately wooing women

Women voters are being wooed like never before by political parties, as 50 per cent of the seats for the forthcoming civic polls have been reserved for women.

mumbai Updated: Jan 07, 2012 01:37 IST
Naresh Kamath

Women voters are being wooed like never before by political parties, as 50 per cent of the seats for the forthcoming civic polls have been reserved for women.

On Friday, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray spent two hours interacting with an exclusive female audience in a packed hall at Dadar. “I have never differentiated between men and women. This is the first time any political party has conducted exams to select its candidates, and women participated in large numbers” said Thackeray.

Last week, Union agriculture minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar called for reservation along similar lines in state assemblies and also in parliament.

With a view to empowering women, the Maharashtra government passed a bill last April, which enhanced the reservation for women to 50 per cent from 33 per cent. Hence, 114 seats in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), out of the total strength of 227, have been reserved for women. And, political parties are scrambling to add various points like safety, sanitation, female infanticide, domestic violence and sexual harassment to their manifestos.

“These are some intrinsic issues facing the women,” said Sena legislator and prominent women’s right activist Neelam Gorhe. The Sena runs small saving schemes for women, holds training classes for various vocations, and also has a women’s wing in each ward.

The Congress, meanwhile, is wooing the various mahila mandals across the city. “With such a huge reservation we expect a surge in the female voting percentage this time and are seeking the support of these mandals and NGOs,” said Rajhans Singh, Congress legislator and leader of the opposition in the BMC.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) points to its chief Mayawati as its mascot. “Mayawati has shown that women 0are no less than men. She is an inspiration for many,” said Vilas Garud, BSP President (Maharashtra).

The BJP too said that women have always been an integral part of the party, pointing to Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, to support their claim. “We hold programmes like personality development and leadership training throughout the year,” said Shailja Girkar, deputy mayor and BJP leader.

A major fallout of the 50 per cent reservation rule is that relatives of leaders are trying to corner tickets. “It is sad to see more relatives than genuine party workers seeking tickets,” said Gorhe. Raj Thackeray said: “Real empowerment will occur when husbands will not interfere in the work of their corporator wives.”