The Gautam Budh Nagar district is famous for its relatively new and well-planned industrial cities of Noida and Greater Noida, which boast some of the most modern facilities. However, the district has performed poorly in terms of representation of women in elections.
Between 1957 and 2017, only 10 women, including one contesting the polls in 2017, got tickets from the three assembly constituencies of Gautam Budh Nagar district. Earlier, there were only Dadri and Jewar constituencies, before Gautam Budh Nagar was carved out as a district in 1997.
The only woman who is contesting the polls this time is Shakila Begum , the first Muslim woman to be nominated from any of the constituencies in the district. She will contest from the Dadri assembly segment.
Shakila Begum, the candidate of a recently-launched party, is trying to emulate the feat of Congress’ Satyawati Singh, Dadri’s first representative in the Uttar Pradesh assembly after the constituency was created in 1956.
Singh had won the 1957 elections to become the first woman MLA from Dadri. The seat was a part of the Bulandshahr district then. After Singh, no major political party has fielded a woman from this assembly segment.
Satyawati got 19,144 votes and Mahraj Singh, an independent, got 10,394 votes. She had won by 8,750 votes, becoming the first woman MLA of Dadri.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had fielded a woman, industrialist Vimla Batham, from the Noida assembly constituency in 2014 by-polls. Batham had become the first woman MLA of Noida.
However, the BJP has decided against fielding Batham in the 2017 polls. In the 2014 elections, Batham had got 1,00,433 votes and Samajwadi Party’s Kajal Sharma had come second with 41,481 votes.
Besides Satyawati Singh and Vimla Batham, Geeta Kumari was fielded by the BJP from Jewar in the 2007 elections. However, Kumari came in third and secured 12,784 votes.
Vimla Batham, Noida’s sitting MLA, said, “Many families discourage women from joining politics. However, those with the determination to make a career in politics cannot be stopped. I have worked with BJP for 35 years after which I finally got a ticket and became an MLA. If families are supportive, women can do well in politics.”
Rest of the women candidates were either independent candidates had contested on tickets from lesser known political parties, but none of them won the elections.
In 2002, Sarojwati an independent candidate from Dadri got 549 votes. In 2012, Radhika contested the Noida segment on a ticket from Lokjanshakti Party and secured 846 votes. In 2012, Geeta Devi, an independent candidate, got 123 votes in Noida. Also in 2012, Rinki of Rashtriya Janata Party got 312 votes from Dadri and Savita, an independent candidate, got 552 votes in Jewar.
“No political party has the desire to give political space to women. Recent comments from political leaders, including Janata Dal’s Sharad Yadav and BJP’s Vinay Katiyar, says it all. Their comments tell you that they do not honour women. Women have to struggle to find a space in each political party because of the male dominance,” Usha Thakur, a social activist in Noida, said.
Savita Sharma, a social activist from Greater Noida, said, “Almost all fields are dominated by men. Politics is the worst career choice for a woman because the society still discriminate. As a result, very few women come forward to join politics. Why have only two women been elected MLA in Gautam Budh Nagar over 70 years? It is simply because we do not support girls in the same way that we do boys.”