A look at women candidates in Bihar assembly polls reveals a harsh reality
Several women candidates fielded in Bihar assembly election 2020 are either wives of Bahubalis or are poorly educated.
As the polling for Bihar assembly election 2020 is to begin in the next few days, almost every political party’s list of candidates reflects decent representation to different castes and class groups and also Muslims, though a fair representation to women across parties still remains an elusive goal, said analysts.
While every party has fielded women contestants, the ratio varies a lot from one political party to another, reflecting a big gender disparity.
Out of the total 115 seats, the ruling Janata Dal (United) has given tickets to 22 women including Shagufta Azim (from Araria) -- the daughter of former RJD leader Iliyas Hussain, who recently joined the JD(U) -- Anjum Ara from Dumraon seat, represented previously by Dadan Pahalwan, and Manju Verma, the social welfare minister who faced flak for Muzaffarpur shelter home abuse case, has been fielded again from Cheriya Bariyarpur seat in Begusarai.
The Bharatiya Janata Party which is contesting on 110 seats has fielded 13 women including Shreyasi Singh from Jamui. Singh is an international shooting champion and daughter of former Union minister late Digvijay Singh. Renu Devi has been fielded again from Bettiah and Rashmi Verma has been fielded from Narkatiyaganj.
The Grand Alliance, which includes the Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Left parties--CPI, CPI(M) and CPI(ML), has given tickets to 24 women candidates out of the 243 seats it is contesting. While the RJD has fielded 16 women candidates, the Congress has seven women on its candidates’ list and the Left parties have just one woman candidate.
Ritu Jaiswal, the RJD candidate from Parihar seat in Sitamarhi, has been a Mukhiya and has recently been conferred the Flame Leadership Award, 2019 by the rural marketing association of India and in 2018, she was conferred the Champions of Change Award by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu. On Saharsa seat, RJD has fielded newly-inducted Lovely Anand, the wife of strongman Anand Mohan.
Congress has fielded Subhashini Yadav from Bihariganj seat in Madhepura. Subhashini is the daughter of veteran socialist leader Sharad Yadav and she joined Congress recently.
The Lok Janshakti Party, which recently parted ways with the NDA in the state, has given tickets to 18 women candidates including some former BJP leaders like Usha Vidyarthi, who has been fielded from Paliganj seat in Patna.
Kanchanbala, a senior social activist who had taken active part in the JP movement in the state says that though the number of women candidates may be higher this time than the last, a deeper look tells a not so encouraging story.
“But look at the profile of candidates. Majority are either under educated or are wives or widows of some musclemen and criminals,” said Kanchanbala. Why can’t educated and socially aware women be selected as contestants? She asked.
“There are many such women who can make decisions and may make a difference in the society and in politics as well. Unfortunately, most of the political parties prefer either illiterate women or the wives or widows of Bahubalis,” she said and added that even the Left parties have failed to field an adequate number of women candidates.
DM Diwakar, former director of the AN Sinha Research Institute, said women are known as Aadhi Aaabadi (half the population) and should be given half the number of seats. “I still don’t understand what stops political parties from doing so,” he said.
Pramod Kumar Poddar, former in-charge of the department of women studies, Patna University, said the list of candidates indicates that women are still discriminated against in politics. “Though all the political parties keep talking about equality, it’s hardly practiced in the distribution of tickets,” he said.
“We need to have highly educated, strong women in politics to bring changes in the society,” he added.
The first phase of polling on 71 out of the 243 assembly seats in the state is scheduled on October 28, the second phase of polls for 94 seats will be held on November 3 and the third phase of polling for 78 seats will be held on November 7. Results will be announced on November 10, 2020.