The Telegraph
Sunday , March 23 , 2014
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Unfair cry over all-men lists

Ranchi, March 22: Chances are that less number of women voters will be seen at polling booths this time.

Disgusted and upset with the political parties for choosing to field mostly men in the Lok Sabha elections, a large number of women of Jharkhand have decided to stay away from the voting process.

The Congress’s decision to name male candidates in all the nine seats it is contesting in Jharkhand has particularly irked the fair sex given party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s oft-repeated rhetoric about the need to empower women.

The national party’s regional ally JMM, which will be fighting in only four seats, didn’t fare any better.

The BJP, which hopes to come back to power riding on the NaMo wave, also chose to stick to an all-men nominee list in Jharkhand despite the names of Asha Lakra, Usha Pandey, Meera Yadav and even better half of Arjun Munda Meera Munda doing the rounds.

The only exceptions are JVM and Trinamul, which decided to field one woman candidate each, and CPI(ML) that have named three (see chart).

“Hum log koi party ko vote nahi denge, koi kaam nahi karta hain (We will not vote for any party, none does any work). They (politicians) have chosen to ignore us and we shall teach them a lesson,” said a voter Rita Toppo, who is also the booth-level officer of Ratu.

Nimi Singh, a Bariatu homemaker who strongly favours BJP, is also not sure whether she will vote this time.

“We wanted Meera Munda to be nominated, but to our utter surprise not a single woman candidate is in the BJP’s list,” she said.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, 47.62 per cent woman had exercised their franchise in Jharkhand.

Women leaders of several parties shared the exasperation. “It is really a pity that very few women have been fielded in the Lok Sabha elections. Who will take up women’s issues such as child marriage, rape, dowry deaths et al in the absence of any woman parliamentarian from Jharkhand?” wondered RJD MLA Annapurna Devi, whose name was initially suggested from the Palamau seat but was eventually withdrawn in favour of Manoj Kumar.

Asked to explain their stand, BJP spokesperson for Jharkhand Pradeep Sinha said: “One has to see the issue in the larger perspective. No doubt, females are equal in all fields, but we wanted to field only competent leaders whom we know will garner maximum number of votes.”

The state Congress also seems to have steered clear of naming any woman simply because none of the female nominees had managed to win in the state in the last elections.

Ranchi Mahanagar Congress Committee President Surender Singh admitted as much.

“Our party president (Sonia Gandhi) is a female, but in this state, we did not find suitable woman candidates for nomination,” he added.

The few parties that have fielded women candidates

The exceptions

JVM: Neelam Devi from Chatra
Trinamul Congress: Manju Kumari from Koderma
CPI(ML): Sushma Mehta from Palamau, Bitiya Manjhi from Dumka and Geeta
Mandal from Godda