Women's power comes to fore in Maharashtra

Hike in quota sees parties giving more tickets to fairer sex

Soldiers on Maharashtra’s political chessboard have changed. The days of moustachioed politicians have given way to comely and petite women giving the poll-cry.

The reason: Fifty per cent reservation for women in Panchayati Raj last year has replaced the bell for machismo politics. In the elections to the local self-governance bodies that started last week and ending this Thursday, over 1,000 women candidates would be nominated to Zilla Parishad, Panchayati Samiti, municipal corporations and municipal councils.

While Maharashtra was not the first state to go in for a 50 per cent reservation for women in Panchayati Raj; the move to enhance it from 33 per cent last April did herald the change.

The result is that in places like Nashik Municipal Corporation, out of the total 930 candidates trying their luck for the 122 seats, 645 of them are women. In other words, women are also thronging the open and other category seats.

Similar is the case with Mumbai Municipal Corporation. Over 2,233 candidates are jostling with each other to grab the 227-strong, rich BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation but a major chunk of ring-fighters are women who are contesting 114 seats as compared to the earlier 76 seats.

The reservation for women has put almost all political parties in a quandary. Most of them doled out tickets to aspiring women candidates only at the last moment, that too grudgingly and reluctantly.

Ironically, the parochial Shiv Sena, defying its macho image much to everybody’s surprise, came out with a list delineating that 60 per cent of its candidates were women. While its ally, the BJP, a masculine-adulatory party eschewed handing out tickets to women, tried to avoid seeking seats reserved for women wherever possible.

The NCP which had initiated the move to enhance the women’s reservation in the state Assembly last year did not have difficulty in finding candidates, but its ally Congress, till the last minute was grappling with the difficult task of distributing tickets to women,
Political analysts, who have been studying state politics and writing about it for decades, are pointing out flaws in the women’s reservation system on the ground that women candidates are, “…just fronts for their husbands, brothers and fathers.”

Veteran political correspondent Prakash Bal Joshi who had been covering politics for the past 30 years, however, said: “Maharashtra has always been progressive and even though there are pockets in state depicting discrimination against females…overall the state psyche is that progressive in nature.”

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