Women yet to get fair deal in Himachal

Cong, BJP field a mere 11 for a 68-member Assembly

Poll-bound Himachal Pradesh may be rejoicing on being among the first states in India to implement 50 per cent reservation for women in Panchayati Raj institutions, but women representation in the electoral process in this hill state has long been appalling.

This despite the fact that women votes have been a deciding factor in every Assembly elections given that their turnout on the day of election surpasses men voters. According to Election Commission data, women turnout in 2007 was nearly 5 per cent more than men. The overall women voter turnout was nearly 75 per cent.

Ironically, the Congress and the BJP, there are only 11 women candidates vying a place in the 68-member state Assembly this time. The Congress has fielded four women candidates, a drop of two since last elections. The BJP has preferred to give tickets to seven women, up five since last time. The CPM has gone in for just one women candidate for the ensuing elections.

The electoral process has mainly remained the domain of women hailing from families of erstwhile rulers or members of well-entrenched political families. The winnability factor in elections is the usual defence of political parties to “justify”  abysmally low women candidates. Just 5 women candidates, out of 25 women in poll fray in the 2007 elections, were successful and made it to the treasury benches.

While state politicians talk about women empowerment and the dire need for more representation of women in the electoral process, they maintain that gender cannot be the sole criteria for ticket allocation. The contradiction with regards to higher women voter turnout and the dismal representation in electoral process has an exception. The Congress’ 84-year-old veteran leader Vidya Strokes, considered close to Sonia Gandhi, has won seven times. 

Stokes said women need to vote for women in elections which will change things. Three women were made ministers for the first time in 2003 in the Congress government while the present BJP government has one woman minister.

Curtains down on campaigning

Campaign for the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, which is due on November 4, drew to a close on Friday with the state chief electoral officer Narinder Chauhan asking all political functionaries and party workers who are not voters in respective constituencies to leave by 5 pm, DHNS reports from Chandigarh.

The state will have a single phase election on Sunday. The incumbent BJP under CM Prem Kumar Dhumal is seeking a second term in office, while the Congress is hoping to trounce the saffron party. The BSP, TMC, (the newly formed) Himachal Lokhit Party, CPI and CPM and others are in the fray. The results will be announced on November 20. HP has a little over 45 lakh voters.

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