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R'sthan women turning away from Congress

Rising popularity of BJP CM Vasundhara Raje and absence of women contestants on Congress tickets is turning Rajasthan's 10.5 million women voters away from the party.
PTI | By Indo-Asian News Service, Jaipur
PUBLISHED ON APR 13, 2004 08:12 PM IST

The Congress faces an uphill task in winning the support of over 10.5 million women voters of Rajasthan in the coming general election.

The increasing popularity of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje among women voters, coupled with fewer tickets being offered by the Congress to women candidates, are being seen as factors that are likely to hit the Congress's performance in the polls.

In the assembly elections in December, Raje got massive support from women voters, helping the BJP to return to power in the desert state.

Raje herself pointed out soon after the assembly poll results were declared that women's turnout was an all-time high of 61 percent.

In the last Lok Sabha poll in 1999, the Congress had offered tickets to four women -- Girija Vyas from Udaipur, Prabha Thakur from Ajmer, Usha Meena from Swai Madhopur and Mahendra Kumari from Alwar.

However, this time it has named only one woman candidate for the polls on May 5 when the state elects 25 Lok Sabha members.

The Congress has fielded Girija Vyas from Udaipur while the BJP has offered the ticket to four women candidates.

Mamta Sharma, president of the Congress women's wing, is reported to have conveyed her displeasure over the fielding of only one woman candidate. Sharma had strongly advocated that at least three women candidates be given the ticket.

Sharma was herself a strong potential candidate from the Kota parliamentary seat. However, the party offered the ticket to Harimohan Sharma, who is pitted against Raghuveer Singh Kaushal of the BJP.

Similarly, Shanti Pahadia, the wife of former chief minister Jaganath Pahadia, former MPs Usha Meena and Kanta Garasiya were strong contenders for the Bayana, Sawai Madhopur and Banswara seats respectively.

But the Congress did not give them the ticket. It is understood that all three women leaders have expressed strong resentment at this.

While accepting that women voters have started to play a decisive role in the poll in Rajasthan, political analysts noted that the electorate still has not shown a favourable inclination towards having woman representatives.

In the last general election in 1999, only three women succeeded in entering the Lok Sabha from among 15 contestants in Rajasthan. They were Vasundhara Raje of the BJP from Jhalawar, Girija Vyas of the Congress from Udaipur and BJP's Jaskaur Meena from Sawai Madhopur.

In the December state assembly poll too, the BJP gave the ticket to 21`women candidates. But only nine of them were able to make it to the assembly.

The Congress had fielded 19 women candidates but only one of them won. Two women contesting as independents too emerged victorious.

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