Amid the glimmer and glitz of the 15th Lok Sabha elections, the silent victim in this largest festival of Indian democracy has once again been the fairer gender. Women, who constitute half of the population and electorate, have once again been left out by the political parties in giving their due representation in this election. And even as the women reservation’s bill stands pending in Parliament for the new government to take it forward, the 15th Lok Sabha elections is merely witnessing tokenism by political parties in fielding women candidates.
It has been the same old story but unfortunately the fate of women in Indian electoral politics fails to change. Though the rise of likes of Sonia Gandhi and Mayawati in Indian politics may give a picture of women empowerment in Indian polity, unfortunately it is only a mirage. The ensuing elections to the 15th Lok Sabha has once again exposed the insensitivity and apathy of the political parties towards the fairer gender. Leave alone the tall claims of providing 33% reservation to women in Parliament and state assemblies, political parties cutting across ideologies have only limited themselves to tokenism in giving ticket to the women candidates.
Out of the 443 candidates declared by Congress, the party has pitched only 40 women candidates which is even less than 10%. Opposition BJP is no better with the party fielding only 43 women candidates out of the total 427 seats being contested by the party . Left parties, the self claimed flag-bearer of the cause of women reservation, have the worst record of women representation in their list of candidates with the left parties not even giving 5% ticket to women candidates for the 15th Lok Sabha elections. While, the CPM has only fielded four candidates out of the 80 declared seats, the CPI has also given only 3 candidates out of the 45 seats it is contesting.Third front leaders and fourth front have equally the worst record in this regard. While Samajwadi Party fielded mere 6 candidates out of its 75 candidate in UP, Lalu Yadav-led RJD has also given mere 2 seats to women in its quota of 28 seats in Bihar.
There is much more irony attached to the whole debate of women empowerment in Indian politics. Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalithaa may have emerged as an icon among women politicians but their own track record exposes the myth of the efforts being done by them to correct the gender bias in Indian politics. Mayawati, who is eying the PM post, has fielded 454 candidates across the country.
However, she could only find 23 suitable women candidates across the country. In her own bastion UP, where she heads the government, she has only put 6 women candidates in fray out of the 80 seats in the state. A similar case is with parties led by women including Trinamool Congress of Mamta Banerjee and AIADMK of J.Jayalalita. The other side of women empowerment is equally ironical. Sharad Pawar, the Maratha giant, may have decided to pass his political legacy to his daughter Supriya Sule but his efforts to increase the representation of women in politics, it seems, has only confined to passing the baton to his daughter. His party NCP has given only 7 tickets to women out of the 67 seats it is contesting across the country.
Till the much hyped Women reservation bill pending in the Rajya Sabha gets the passage, it would be binding on the next government to take the issue forward and prove its sincerity in its promise.