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Women nominees cross the gender divide

PTI | ByRohit Ghosh (Indo-Asian News Service), Seoni (madhya Pradesh)
May 03, 2004 12:23 PM IST

Women may constitute less than 10 percent of the candidates elsewhere in the country, but in this Madhya Pradesh constituency the four main contestants are all women.

Women may constitute less than 10 percent of the candidates elsewhere in the country, but in this Madhya Pradesh constituency the four main contestants are all women.

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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded Neeta Pateria as its candidate in Seoni, the Congress has Kalyani Pandey, the regional Gondwana Ganatantra Party (GGP) has Raj Rajeshwari Raj Uikey and the Samajwadi Party has unleashed Savitri Rao.

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There are five other candidates in the fray for the May 5 elections to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament.

This constituency in southern Madhya Pradesh has, not surprisingly, the maximum number of women candidates in the state.

And it is anybody's guess which woman will finally make it to parliament.

Though the main contest here has always been between the BJP and Congress, the GGP has emerged as a force to contend with after the December assembly elections.

Seoni was a Congress bastion till the elections held after the emergency in 1977.

The Congress lost to the Bharatiya Lok Dal in 1977 and Nirmal Chand Jain was elected. It regained the seat in 1980 and Gargi Shankar Mishra was the winner, who retained the seat in 1984 as well.

The four general elections from 1989 to 1998 saw the constituency swinging between the BJP and Congress alternately.

BJP's Prahlad Singh Patel defeated Mishra in 1989 but lost in 1991 when Congress' Vimla Verma became the first woman to represent the constituency in parliament.

Patel avenged his defeat in the next elections in 1996 but Verma again defeated him in 1998.

In the last elections in 1999, Verma lost to BJP's Ram Naresh Tripathi.

"It's a coincidence that the candidates of all the major parties this time are women. The parties had selected the candidates according to their winning prospects," said an election observer.

The BJP went for a fresh face as the people and party workers were not satisfied with Tripathi.

Verma decided not to contest so the Congress had to go for Pandey, a former mayor of Jabalpur.

Though Uikey contested the assembly elections unsuccessfully from Lakhnadon constituency in Seoni district, she was able to garner 34,000 votes, so the GGP nominated her.

Even with elections only a couple of days away, the campaign fever is conspicuously missing in the constituency, which has 1.2 million voters. Of this 584,000 are women.

Seoni has eight assembly seats. In the assembly elections last year, the BJP had won six seats and the Congress two.

--Indo-Asian News Service

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