Punjab goes to poll in the last and final phase of the ensuing Lok Sabha elections. With all its talk around women’s reservation bill, national parties like BJP and Congress fail to field women candidates from the state’s 13 constituencies. Congress has fielded only one woman with Preneet Kaur from Patiala and the currently in power at the centre BJP has not fielded even a single woman from Punjab.

Only 8.60% of women candidates

While a total of 278 candidates are in the fray from the state with a staggering 122 independent candidates making it up to 43.88% of the total candidates, only 24 candidates or 8.60% are women including seven independent women candidates.

Along with Punjab, Union Territory Chandigarh is also going to poll in the last phase and while it may be the capital of the state, it is a separate constituency in the Lok Sabha election. Though Punjab has fielded an appalling number of women, Chandigarh has fielded the most number of women candidates, with nine women out of 36 candidates, among all the parliamentary seats.

While the BJP and Congress have disappointed in the number of women candidates fielded across the state, three parties have fielded a maximum of two women candidates each. These include Aam Aadmi Party and regional parties Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Rashtriya Janshakti Party (Secular).

The tough tussle in Patiala and Bhatinda

AAP’s Baljinder Kaur is contesting from Bhatinda, who won as an MLA in 2017, and Neena Mittal from Patiala, who is the state vice president of the party. Both Kaur and Mittal are in a tough tussle with other strong women candidates in the two constituencies as Kaur is up against incumbent Shiromani Akali Dal’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal. On the other hand, Mittal is contesting against Congress’ former minister and two-time MP Kaur from Patiala.

Shiromani Akali Dal has also fielded former Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief and ex-minister Bibi Jagir Kaur from Khadoor Sahib Constituency. Bibi Jagir has been MLA from Bholath in Kapurthala district. She had to resign as minister in SAD-BJP government in 2012 when a CBI court sentenced her and three others to five years’ imprisonment in a forcible abortion and abduction of daughter Harpreet Kaur, who died under mysterious circumstances in April 2000 case.

Preneet Kaur of Congress has been an MP for three terms in 1999, 2004 and 2009 but she lost the seat in the previous election as AAP’s candidate Dr Dharamvira Gandhi won it in 2014. However, Preneet has been known for being an accessible parliamentarian and an active politician. She inaugurated over Rs 500 crore projects after the Congress formed the government in the state in March 2017. Alternatively, AAP’s Mittal climbed the ranks of trade and industry wing president right from being a party volunteer since 2013. She is part of several social organisations running an orphanage and charitable trust to help poor homeless people, widows, old-aged and handicapped people.

Sitting MP Badal from SAD is the Union Cabinet Minister of Food Processing. She started her political career in 2009 and was elected to the 15th Lok Sabha from Bathinda constituency after defeating Indian National Congress candidate Raninder Singh by 1,20,960 votes. In 2014, she was re-elected as Bhatinda’s MP.

Amritsar’s lone woman candidate

Punjab Democratic Alliance has fielded Communist Party of India’s Daswinder Kaur as its candidate from Amritsar making her the only woman candidate from the constituency. Kaur contested the midterm MP election from Amritsar after Captain Amrinder Singh had to resign as MP to become the CM. Although she lost the election, she stood at the fourth position while Congress’ Gurjeet Aujla won the seat.

Best and worst performers constituency-wise

The Anandpur Sahib and Khadoor Sahib have witnessed the most number of women candidates at five candidates each. Smaller parties have fielded three candidates—Sukhdeep Kaur, Surinder Kaur Mangal and Kulwinder Kaur, Sunai and Kirpal Kaur are contesting independently from Anandpur Sahib while Khadoor Sahib sees SAD’s Bibi Jagir and Paramjeet Kaur Khalra of Punjab Ekta Party and Harjit Kaur, Jagir Kaur and Paramjit Kaur Khambra are in the fray independently.

Bhatinda, Faridkot, and Sangrur all have three women candidates each contesting from the constituencies. Patiala has two women candidates and Fatehgarh Sahib, Amritsar, and Jalandhar only have one woman candidate each in the fray.

While the BJP and Congress have disappointed in the number of women candidates fielded across the state, three parties have fielded a maximum of two women candidates each. These include Aam Aadmi Party and regional parties Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Rashtriya Janshakti Party (Secular).

Chandigarh’s Women candidates

Among the nine candidates contesting for Chandigarh is the sitting MP Kirron Kher who is a BJP leader. The remaining eight consists of four candidates from regional parties and four are contesting independently.

While Kher is depending on the Modi wave and the development work she claims to have done, the 48-year-old candidate Jyoti Singh of Akhil Bhartiya Apna Dal is a political greenhorn who has listed her profession as a social worker. Bhoopinder Kaur is another candidate and a first-timer, who is a member of Sarvjan Sewa Party. A resident of Mohali, she is also a social worker.

More Stories by Poorvi Gupta

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