In the past two weeks, Congress has released a list of close to 372 candidates to contest in the upcoming Lok Sabha election. Of the entire list, a total of 50 candidates are women, which comes around 13% in total, indicating yet another critically low representation of women in elections. This punctures party Chief Rahul Gandhi’s repeated promises about increasing women legislators in the parliament. He had even vowed to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill in the first session of the house itself. Interestingly, the bill was first passed in the Rajya Sabha during the UPA-II regime in 2010 but lapsed in the last session due to political inaction.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Of the list of 372 candidates for the ensuing Lok Sabha Elections, Congress has fielded a grand total of 50 women.
  • Both the major parties of the country are responsible for keeping women out of parliament.
  • EC should set criteria of a certain percentage of tickets to be given to women and if the parties fail to adhere to it then they should de-recognize that party.
  • The party always has the interest of having more candidates elected to the parliament. So currently Mr Gandhi’s focus is not on the means to it rather the end goal of having more women in parliament.

It is surprising that the party that boasts of young and educated leaders failed to even field 20% “winnable” women candidates. In this scenario, all its promises so far appear to be mere lip-service.

In spite of being previously led by powerful women leaders, this time around the grand old party showed reluctance in giving MP tickets to women party workers who have been working for decades like Jarjum Ete in Arunachal Pradesh and Sumalatha who wanted to contest from Mandya constituency in Karnataka.

Centre for Social Research chief Ranjana Kumari, who is a championing the cause of more women’s participation in politics, expressed her discontentment with the party and told SheThePeople.TV, “Both (Congress and BJP) the major parties of the country are responsible for keeping women out of the parliament. One party had the chance to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill, it did not pass it and another party could only get it passed it in Rajya Sabha and never even tabled it in Lok Sabha. There are so many new and young faces in Congress leadership today with Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot, etc. but it really doesn’t reflect in the way the party is making decisions.”

Kumari stressed on Election Commission of India’s role to hold parties accountable for non-inclusion of women in the candidate list. “They should set criteria of a certain percentage of tickets to be given to women and if parties fail to adhere to it then they should de-recognize that party. If the parties won’t have enough candidates, then how would more women become parliamentarians?”

ALSO READ: Understanding Women’s Representation & Female Voters Pattern

In 2014, a total of 61 women became MPs out of 543 seats, which is 11% up from 59 women in 2009. It is worth mentioning that a record total of 670 women candidates competed in 2014 which was a 20% increase from 2009 but the rise in the number of women who became MPs did not match up the candidacy number.

Political Shakti founder Tara Krishnaswamy also lamented over the lackadaisical approach of the party. She said, “Neither national parties have any credibility around women’s representation or commitment to women’s progress. Congress has been making a grandiose statement about passing the reservation bill when they come to power but unwilling to give even half of that as tickets to women. This emphasizes upon what the party women have been saying for a long time that this is not going to happen unless you pass the legislation.”

She added, “I would also say that regional parties have always taken the lead and this is yet another reason to vote for regional parties as they are not held back by what to do in one state based on their stakes in another state.”

Regional parties have been far more generous in fielding women candidates than national parties. While Odisha’s Biju Janta Dal (BJD) promised 33% tickets to women, West Bengal’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) gave 40% tickets and Tamil Nadu’s Naam Tamilar Katchi has given 50% tickets to women. All these parties took the initiatives without any pressure from outside elements and have projected their intention to bring more women to the parliament.

However, Congress’ Angellica Aribam said that making the bill mandatory is the only way to bring in effective change. She said, “This happens because when we reserve seats for women within the party, a lot of these women are given tickets from constituencies which are not winnable and women candidates also find it very difficult to generate funds for contesting.”

Both (Congress and BJP) the major parties of the country are responsible for keeping women out of parliament. One party had the chance to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill, it did not pass it and another party could only get it passed it in Rajya Sabha and never even tabled it in Lok Sabha. –Ranjana Kumari

“The party always has the interest of having more candidates elected to the parliament. So, currently Mr Gandhi’s focus is not on the means to it rather the end goal of having more women in parliament. For Congress to be able to pass the bill, he needs more elected MPs and he needs to win the election. He is looking at the perspective of having more people elected right now so in future we can have more women elected in the parliament,” she added.

The 27-year-old former NSUI member contested that if they do give more tickets to women candidates then it might look optically good but the end goal won’t be served.

Recently the party’s Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee held a review meeting inaugurated byKarnataka MLA Oommen Chandy  to discuss progress in the Thiruvananthapuram election campaign. MP Dr Shashi Tharoor also tweeted a picture from the meeting.

A Twitter user, Surya HK reflected on the lack of women in the meeting and commented, “Are they not capable of ‘discussing progress’? Surely they are integral to your campaign & groundwork? Request u to lead inclusively+set an example.”

Picture Credit- Subhav Shukla/PTI

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