Sans women power

In a predominantly Sikh state with nearly 64 per cent Sikh voters sharing a major pie in the caste calculus, a Muslim dominated seat in Malerkotla presents a picture of women empowerment in the doleful backdrop of Punjab’s poor representation to women on the electoral scene.

Dr Upinderjit KaurFor some time now, political parties have fielded women candidates, one of them making it to the treasury benches. This time too, things don’t appear much different. Wives of two top-ranking police officers, including the sitting MLA Razia Sultana of the Congress, are in poll fray and are likely to be announced party nominees. But behind the glittery picture of minority Muslim women representing active political arena lies the sordid reality. Presently, there are only eight women MLAs among total 117.

Despite all the rhetoric of 33 per cent women representation, in Punjab the number of women MLAs has never been in double digits in the last 51 years since 1960. Women touched the figure of eight in the 2007election. In the 2002 election, nine women were elected to the Assembly. Interestingly, even way back in 1960, when women empowerment issues arguably took a back seat, the Punjab assembly had a strength of nine women legislators. There have also been governments when the House was without a single woman legislator. 

In the last decade or so, political parties in Punjab have given fewer seats to women candidates. In 2007 polls, there were 56 women candidates as compared to 70 in 2002. Left parties and the BJP have a more dismal record when it comes to women representation. In the past 46 years, the BJP and the Left parties only sent one woman candidate each to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha (Luxmi Kanta Chawla and Vimla Dang), both representing the holy city of Amritsar.

Punjab has once even voted a woman as CM. Senior Congress leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, a five-time MLA, has served as CM and deputy CM in Punjab. Considering the voting pattern, the variation between men and women voters has fluctuated around three per cent.

Punjab has some highly qualified and achiever women. Minister Dr Upinderjit Kaur holds a doctorate in economics and two master’s degrees.

Punjab’s poll turf laid out

Top cops, bureaucrats, politicians’ kin in fray

BJP grapples with anti-incumbency, Cong with leadership deficit

Badal troika vies for 1 seat

 

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