The National Women’s Party (NWP) recently announced that it will be contesting 50% of the seats in Lok Sabha in the 2019 General Elections. Though the party was formed by 36-year-old medico Dr Swetha Shetty in 2012, it was launched formally on December 18, last year. Shetty’s prime objective is to push for women’s right to have an equal number of seats in Parliament. She also revealed that the party has formed an alliance with the All Indian Women United Party (AIWUP) to strengthen its base across the country as NWP’s stronghold lies down south.

The party has declared its intent to field candidates in 283 Lok Sabha constituencies. While NWP will field its candidates for 208 Lok Sabha seats, AIWUP will field candidates in 75 seats.

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Some prominent members of NWP include Padma Venkataraman, daughter of former President R Venkataraman, and Naina Jadeja, sister of cricketer Ravindra Jadeja, and actor Nithya Menen, who played J Jayalalithaa in the late Tamil Nadu chief minister’s biopic.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • NWP announced that it will be contesting 50% of the seats in Lok Sabha in the 2019 General Elections.
  • Party formed alliance with All Indian Women United Party to capture entire country while contesting in election.
  • Women Reservation Bill appeal has got us nowhere, we now want 50% seats in parliament. 
  • Initiative is good but requires large-scale planning and preparation.

AIM AND ORIGIN

The party’s aim is to strongly enforce gender equality in politics. Talking about it, the Hyderabad-based Shetty told SheThePeople.TV, “We are representing 50% population of women in India but our representation in politics has always been at a minimal 11% and less than 10% in assemblies. Why is it that women don’t come up in politics in large numbers? Women are not given enough tickets. There is a women’s wing in every party and women work as party workers. They mobilize women’s votes for these parties. But when the time comes for their rise, they are always under-represented because of patriarchy. So we contended that women should have their own party so we don’t have to beg for seats from these big politics parties.”

Shetty asserted that women today want to see more of their ilk in politics and as their representatives. “I visited a few states recently and on talking to women over there, I realized that women are voting for NOTA because of lack of gender-based representation. Over the years, women’s issues have been side-lined by the mainstream political parties that’s why women are losing faith in these parties,” she added.

ALLIANCE BETWEEN NWP AND AIWUP

This is not the first time that an all-women party has been registered with the Election Commission but this is certainly the first time that a women’s party has shown interest to contest half of the seats in the upcoming elections. NWP unveiled its party symbol—bangles for Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — and a gas stove for the rest of the states. Asked why she wants to contest 50% seats, Shetty said that “we are only fighting for our equal rights, rest we are leaving for men”.

While NWP registered itself with the EC as a national party in 2012, AIWUP was registered in 2014. The EC allotted the party symbol after the alliance was formed. AIWUP president Nasim Bano Khan spoke up ion the alliance and said, “Since NWP is from south and we have a stronghold in the north so to capture the entire country, we have formed the alliance. And since this is the first time women’s parties will be contesting for 50% power-sharing, it was only appropriate to come together.

We cannot just call for empowerment as solution for women’s issues. It is of utmost importance that women should also have equal representation in politics. We believe in the Beijing Declaration on Women’s rights—a UN Declaration—granting equal rights on all decision-making processes, including the political system. Our country has become a male-dominated country only because we could never come up to fight for our political rights,” said Khan.

THOUGHTS ON RESERVATION BILL

Both Shetty and Khan feel that there is no point in asking for reservation any more as the bill lies scrapped in Parliament. Now, the only way women can have representation in politics is by standing in elections and by voting women in power. “We don’t think that anybody has power over us that they can provide us reservation. We are aware enough to make our own party and fight in the elections,” said Khan.

Agreeing with Khan’s view on the Women’s Reservation Bill, Shetty said it has been 22 years that the bill was introduced. “The bill talks only about 33% reservations. We don’t want 33% any more, we are fighting for our 50% rights in all private and public sector entitlement. We don’t believe in the bill now, it was a toll on our patience. We are fighting for an egalitarian society,” she said.

The NWP is coming up with some interesting mobile applications like Women’s Voice Up, Mahila Rakshak, etc. While its party manifesto is women-centric, it also talks about the betterment of farmers and armymen.

ALSO READ: Female Politicians Commenting On Priyanka Gandhi’s Entry Into Politics

WHAT POLITICAL ACTIVISTS THINK       

As rare as this occasion of women’s parties coming into place is, political activists fighting for equality and women’s representation in politics are ecstatic about this development. Tara Krishnaswamy of Political Shakti said, “It is a commendable initiative and I am very happy to see more women take the lead and trying to get into the seat of the high table. What really needs to happen is that one way or another, these are all different paths to success and it is not important that every single path succeeds but that the overall goal is accomplished, which is that we put pressure on the system that women are equally important to have space in politics.”

“It is a great move that women are speaking up and willing to enter politics. I am really happy for their symbol too and the fact that they are focusing on marginalized people, farmers’ concerns etc. in their manifesto also sounds great. However, we will have to see how it all turns out for the party in this election,” added political analyst Cynthia Stephen.

“We are all making efforts at our own levels, and somewhere, there needs to be a synergy among every person fighting for equal rights. It is an important decision that they have taken. However, the logic of Indian politics is deeply-rooted in caste and religion, and gender still is not a category”

Ranjana Kumari, an integral activist in the fight for 50% reservation for women in politics, said, “We are all making efforts at our own levels, and somewhere, there needs to be a synergy among every person fighting for equal rights. It is an important decision that they have taken. However, the logic of Indian politics is deeply-rooted in caste and religion, and gender still is not a category. Though there have been similar attempts by individuals in the past to form a party, even formation of a party needs to come from a collective. Only then will it make an impact.”

Shetty’s efforts to bring up a entire party helmed by women that fights for 50% seats in the Lok Sabha are indeed laudable. The implications of such a move on our societal and political system are huge. The only way to bolster’s women’s way into mainstream politics is to mobilise them across the country to stand up and vote for women in politics.

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