Lok Sabha election: Congress fails to walk the talk on women candidates in Punjab
Barely four months after he piloted a resolution in the state assembly urging the Centre to enact a law to provide 33% reservation to women in Parliament, Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh and his party have failed to walk the talk.
The Congress list of candidates for 13 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state features only one woman. Amarinder’s wife and former Union minister Preneet Kaur has been fielded from the family fortress of Patiala. Kaur, who was named in the first list of six candidates decided by the party’s central election committee on April 2, has represented the seat thrice in the past.
No other woman candidate was announced by the Congress for any of the remaining seven constituencies even after Punjab Ekta Party (PEP) chief and former leader of opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira had, more than a week ago, accused the party of “double standards” on 33% reservation for women. The party declared its nominees for the last two constituencies, Bathinda and Ferozepur, on Saturday. This is the first time in two decades that the party has field just one woman candidate in the state.
In December 2018, Amarinder had moved the resolution on women’s reservation bill in the Punjab assembly to show the party’s commitment to their empowerment. The resolution was brought after the Congress president Rahul Gandhi wrote to all state chief ministers of the Congress and alliance parties in this regard. The bill, which seeks to reserve 33% of all seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women, was introduced in Parliament in 1996, but has not been passed so far. The state assembly passed the resolution unanimously by voice vote.
In comparison to the Congress, the opposition parties have done better. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the principal opposition party in state assembly, has given tickets to three women. Talwandi Sabo MLA Baljinder Kaur and trade wing chief Neera Mittal have been fielded from Bathinda and Patiala, respectively, whereas former Congress MLA Harbans Kaur Dullo, who joined the AAP on Tuesday, is the party candidate from Fatehgarh Sahib reserved seat. Harbans Kaur is the wife of Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Shamsher Singh Dullo.
Similarly, the Khaira-led Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA), a six-party coalition formed two months ago, has fielded Paramjit Kaur Khalra and Daswinder Kaur from Khadoor Sahib and Amritsar constituencies. Khalra, the widow of human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra, is the PEP candidate whereas Daswinder has been fielded by the Communist Party of India (CPI). Both the PEP and CPI are constituents of the PDA.
The Shiormani Akali Dal (SAD), which fights 10 seats in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has named eight candidates so far. While it has given ticket to former minister Jagir Kaur from Khadoor Sahib, sitting MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal, a minister in the Modi government, also appears set to seek re-election. The BJP, which contests only three seats as per the seat-sharing deal, is still to declare its nominees.