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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Women in politics is more about men

There are barely 12 women from mainstream political parties who are contesting the 17th Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Apr 17, 2019 14:34 IST
Abhay Vaidya and Parth Welankar
Abhay Vaidya and Parth Welankar
Hindustan Times, Pune
There are barely 12 women from mainstream political parties who are contesting the 17th Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra. Supriya Sule is daughter of NCP president Sharad Pawar.
There are barely 12 women from mainstream political parties who are contesting the 17th Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra. Supriya Sule is daughter of NCP president Sharad Pawar.(HT FILE)

Even as the Women’s Reservation Bill, 2008, which promises 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha continues to be pending in the Parliament, there are barely 12 women from mainstream political parties who are contesting the 17th Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra.

Many women contesting in the Lok Sabha polls from Maharashtra are candidates of mainstream political parties because of a political dynasty. So either their father, husband or father-in-law are into politics.

Of these 12, six women are sitting members of Parliament (MPs), one is a former MP and another had contested the last elections unsuccessfully.

Bollywood actor Urmila Matondkar, who is the Congress candidate from Mumbai North, is the only prominent woman candidate without any political or dynastic background.

While 12 women are contesting the polls this time from prominent political parties, in the 2014 polls, the five women who were elected included Bhavana Gawali, a Shiv Sena MP of four terms from the Yavatmal-Washim constituency and the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Supriya Sule, who is now contesting for her third term from Baramati.

Pritam Munde, the younger daughter of the late BJP leader Gopinath Munde, won the Beed Lok Sabha seat in a by-election in 2014 by a record margin of 6.96 lakh votes.

Besides Matondkar, new faces contesting the Lok Sabha polls from Maharashtra include Kanchan Kul- wife of Rashtriya Samaj Party member of legislative assembly (MLA) Rahul Kul, who has been pitted as the BJP candidate against Supriya Sule in the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency, and Charulata Tokas (Wardha), the head of Maharashtra Women’s Congress wing and daughter of former Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee president Prabhau Rau.

Sitting MPs contesting the 2019 polls, include Heena Gavit (BJP), daughter of former NCP MLA Vijaykumar Gavit from Nandurbar; Poonam Mahajan, Pritam Munde, Raksha Khadse and Bhavana Gawali.

Neelam Gorhe, Shiv Sena’s Member of Legislative Council (MLC) and social activist, said apart from the strong resistance from political parties to nominate them to fight elections, women candidates face the challenge of “continuous character assassination and violence.”

“This has a huge impact on the women candidates,” she said, adding that these must be curbed by law. “I believe the election commission must step in and create some mandatory regulations which will compel political parties to give mandatory candidature to women in the elections,” she said.

Pune Mayor, Mukta Tilak said it cannot be denied that violence in politics and derogatory comments discourage women from joining politics.

“Political parties often give tickets to candidates who have better chances of winning the seat,” said Tilak. She said, “For various reasons, women lack the confidence to contest the elections or reach out to people of their constituency.”

“It is, therefore, necessary for all political parties and the government to take steps to empower women to join politics,” Tilak said.

Only one female candidate among 31 in fray for Pune LS seat

Kanchan Kshirsagar, a 48-year-old social worker, is the sole female independent candidate among 31 contestants fighting the Lok Sabha polls from Pune.

In Pune, there are 20,74,861 electorates, of which female voters are 10,07,263, which is roughly 50 per cent. The male voters are 10,67,516 and transgenders are 82.

“Having strong support from an established political outfit can add to the chances of winning a seat, however, women with or without the party symbol must join active politics,” said Kshirsagar.

Founder of the non-governmental organisation (NGO), Panchtarka Mahila Vikas Sanstha, she has been working for the last 25 years as a counsellor for the upliftment of women and the poor in the city.

“Almost all the political parties talk about women empowerment, however, when it comes to giving the representation in electoral politics, the same political parties have different stands. Hence, I decided to contest as an independent candidate and continue the social work that I have been doing for the last two decades,” she said.

In her maiden election, Kshirsagar’s key area of focus is working for the slum dwellers in the city and integrating them into the mainstream.

“The priorities of the slum dwellers in the city, who want affordable education, housing and equal employment opportunities, are always trivialised by the politicians. A good living is more important for these people rather than digital India,” she said.

Talking about her campaign strategies, Kshirsage, said, “There won’t be big rallies, instead we will conduct smaller meetings where a message about our agenda will be propagated among the common people.”

Bring women into politics, says manifesto

Early this month, Stree Mukti Andolan Sampark Samiti, a women’s right volunteer group in Pune, called for initiatives to increase women’s participation in politics.

The 11-point manifesto issued by the group calls for passing the Women’s Reservation Bill in both the houses of the Parliament, which finds mention in the Congress manifesto declared on April 2.

“We are progressive and secular. We do not have any political inclinations. We believe only in those who follow the Constitution,” said Alka Pawangadkar, an activist working for the organisation.

Along with political involvement, the 11-point manifesto covers issues related to female farmers, workers and labourer women, health and sanitation, education, food and social security, violence against women, rights of Dalit, Muslim and tribal women and rights of disabled women.

First Published: Apr 17, 2019 14:31 IST

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