The women representation among political parties for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls is a far cry from the promises of female empowerment made before election campaigning.
The state, which has around 2,90,14,572 female voters would see only 20 women candidates fielded by various parties out of 173 declared candidates.
Under the leadership of chief minister Nitish Kumar, Bihar became the first state in the country to provide 50 per cent reservation in panchayat bodies in 2006. However, it seems even the JD(U) has developed cold feet in giving tickets to female candidates in the general elections.
Of 40 candidates, the party has only two female contenders, Meena Singh and Ashamedh Devi, contesting from Ara and Ujiarpur, respectively — a mere 5 per cent of the total participation of females this year. This is the lowest compared to the rest of the political parties. Even in the last Lok Sabha elections in 2009, the JD(U) had given two tickets to female candidates out of 25 contenders. Of 672 candidates in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, from Bihar only 46 or 7 per cent of women contested. Of these, only 4 emerged as MPs in the 13th Lok Sabha. When this correspondent tried to contact Bashishtha Narayan Singh, the president of the state JD(U), she was told the leader was taking a nap.
The BJP, through its NaMo rath and election campaigns has been talking about women empowerment incessantly but has failed to project convincing number of female candidates for the general elections. Of 30 candidates, Rama Devi and Putul Kumari from Sheohar and Banka, respectively, would contest this time.
Kiran Ghai, the national vice-president of the party, claimed that the BJP was the first to raise the issue of women’s reservation bill in Parliament. “It is quite unfortunate that the party, which came up with the proposal of reservation of women in Parliament still resists in giving tickets to female candidates in the state. Distribution of tickets has much to do with the mindset of the people. Believe it or not but politics is still male-dominated. Gender discrimination is still there in almost all political parties both at the regional and national levels. The parties think that women are cannot win and are not financially strong to contest an election. There is also a high-level of insecurity among the male candidates and leaders also,” said Ghai.
Like Kiran, Sukhada Pandey, a senior leader of the BJP, is not happy with the number of female candidates contesting for the Lok Sabha elections. “They want some powerful women to contest for the constituencies. If they don’t give female candidates tickets, how would she become powerful? The politics of the country is still dominated by males who are in a habit of questioning our potential and capability. The women’s reservation bill has been a political raw nerve for nearly a decade now. It has created many heated discussions but the result is before you,” said Sukhada.
The BJP state chief, Mangal Pandey, refused comment on the issue, as he was busy in a party meeting.
The pending bill is proposed to amend the Constitution to reserve 33 per cent of all seats in the Lower House of Parliament of India, the Lok Sabha, and in all state Legislative Assemblies for women.
The RJD has given tickets to five female candidates out of 27. Party chief Lalu Prasad has nominated his eldest daughter Misa Bharti for the Pataliputra constituency — compelling his close aide Ram Kripal Yadav to move to the BJP. Of the five candidates fielded by the RJD, two are from Lalu’s family, the other being wife Rabri Devi contesting from Saran. It seems the RJD boss believes in empowering women of his family first. Ram Chandra Purbey, the president of the state unit of RJD, disconnected the call when The Telegraph asked him the reason for poor female participation in his party.
The Congress has 25 per cent female candidates fighting in their constituencies. Of 12 seats, three female candidates are contesting from Sasaram, Supaul and Gopalganj.
Talking about the inadequate female representation, Vinita Vijay, who contested from Muzaffarpur on a Congress ticket in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, said: “I think we are the only party that has given tickets to a good number of female candidates. How are women supposed to prove their worth if you don’t give them tickets? There are some people in every political party, which tries to keep women away from contesting elections,” said Vinita.
Aam Aadmi Party, a first-timer in the general elections, has five female aspirants out of 35 declared candidates. “Our aim was to give tickets to at least 10 women candidates but owing to lack of women representation, the target was not achieved,” said Somnath Tripathi, the AAP in-charge, Bihar and Jharkhand.