Assembly elections: Once again, Nagaland fails to elect a woman legislator
Five women were in the fray and expectations soared in the early hours of counting as Awan Konyak of the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) took an initial lead over the Naga People’s Front candidate.Updated: Mar 04, 2018 07:29 IST
It was a dubious record that many had hoped would be shattered on Saturday. But as the counting of votes in Nagaland progressed, it became clear that the northeastern state had, once again, failed to elect a single woman lawmaker.
Five women were in the fray and expectations soared in the early hours of counting as Awan Konyak of the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) took an initial lead over the Naga People’s Front candidate, Eshak Konyak, in the Aboi seat.
But it was not to be. Awan secured 5,131 votes, 905 less than Eshak, who got 6,036 votes. The other four women, too, were defeated.
“I feel very sad. Five women had contested and we were expecting Awan to win. But we will continue our fight for women’s rights in Nagaland. Hopefully, it won’t be the same story next time,” said Sano Vamuzo, founder-president of the Naga Mothers Association, the oldest and most respected women’s organization in the state.
Women are considered empowered in Nagaland –76% of the women in the state are literate compared to the national average of 65% – and are well represented in government jobs (23.5%) and the private sector (49%), according to figures from the Nagaland Gender Statistics-2016 report.
But women don’t enjoy the right to inherit property and are poorly represented in elected bodies and in decision-making processes. No woman legislator has entered the assembly in the state’s 55-year-old history. The state’s lone woman parliamentarian was Rano M Shaiza, who was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1977.
Which is why a lot of hopes were riding on Awan and the other women. A social worker with a post-graduate degree from Delhi University, Awan hailed from a reputed political family in Nagaland. Her father, Nyeiwang Konyak, a four-time member of the legislative assembly and former minister, had died in January—paving the way for her entry into politics.
“Politics has been part and parcel of our family. I am receiving a lot of support and encouragement from everyone and am positive about winning,” Awan had said before voting took place on February 27.
Rakhila, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from Tuensang Sadar-II, finished third in her constituency. Rekha Rose Dukru, who contested as an independent candidate from Chizami overcoming opposition from family members and village elders, came fifth with over 200 votes. K. Mayangpula Chang, the National People’s Party candidate from Noksen finished fourth. The party’s other woman candidate, Wedie U Krono, also finished fourth in the race for the Dimapur-III seat with 483 votes.
Tribal laws of Nagaland are protected under Article 371(A) of the Constitution, which gives the state a special status. Women are not part of village councils as per these laws; they have 25% reservation in village development boards, but don’t have much say in matters.
Violence broke out in January last year, when the NPF-led government tried to conduct municipal elections with 33% reservation for women. Several government buildings in the capital Kohima were burnt down. Influential tribal councils, where men are in charge, opposed the move on grounds that giving reservations to women, as per the 74th constitutional amendment, would violate provisions of Article 371(A).
The municipal polls, which had not been held for over 13 years, had to be called off.