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Women missing from action in Gujarat's electoral battle

Wednesday, 16 April 2014 - 7:29pm IST | Place: Gandhinagar | Agency: dna

Only 16 out of 334 candidates in the fray are women; the number is sharply lower than in 2009 when 26 women had contested

The electoral battles are hardly fair to the fairer sex. This holds true in Gujarat too, where the next chief minister could very well be a woman, and where a woman is conducting the elections.

Women are nearly half of the total voters, but they have a shockingly low representation in the electoral battle to the Lok Sabha. The final list of candidates shows that women account for less than 5% of the candidates contesting in the April 30 Lok Sabha polls in the state. There are only 16 women contesting in the election, out of a total 334 candidates.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, there were 26 women in the fray out of total 359 candidates — 7.25%. However, this has declined to just 4.79% in this election. In the 2012 assembly elections, 97 out of total 1,666 candidates were women — just under 6%. And, out of 182 MLAs in the state 16 are women.

For the record, BJP has fielded four women candidates in the elections, including two sitting MPs – Jayshree Patel from Mehsana and Darshana Jardosh from Surat. The other two women fielded by the party are MLAs – Bharti Shyal from Bhavnagar LS seat and Poonam Maadam from Jamnagar.

The Congress, on the other hand, has fielded only one woman candidate — sitting MP from Dahod Prabha Taviad.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has put up candidates in 24 seats, but only one is a woman. Same is the case with CPI, which have also fielded one woman candidate. The Mayawati-headed Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has put up two women candidates. The rest of the women candidates in the fray are independents.

There are two women candidates in the fray in Mehsana, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar, Dahod and Navsari seats. There is one woman contesting in Banaskantha, Gandhinagar, Surendranagar, Bardoli, Surat and Porbandar.

There is not a single woman candidate in the fray in as many as 15 Lok Sabha seats, including Ahmedabad East and West, Vadodara, Anand, Kheda, Rajkot, among others.

Political parties hardly agree with one another, but they speak almost in unison when representation to women in politics is concerned.

“We have finalised the candidates based on their winnability. Our party president (Sonia Gandhi) insisted on fielding more women and we even considered a few options, but were unable to find suitable candidates,” Arjun Modhwadia, president of Gujarat Congress, told dna.

The BJP, which has fielded four women candidates, is satisfied that it has fielded more women candidates than any other party.

“We are trying to achieve balance between winnability and women’s representation and striving to give maximum representation to women right from local self government bodies to Parliament. The number of women candidates fielded by BJP has been going up in every election,” IK Jadeja, the party’s spokesperson, said.

The AAP says that being a new player it didn’t have much time to identify strong women candidates.

Sukhdev Patel, convenor of AAP in Gujarat, said, “It is true that women’s participation in elections is not proportionate to their numbers. We firmly believe that women should be appropriately represented in politics. But, we only had three months and it was difficult for us to find good women candidates. We tried but were unsuccessful in it, which is why we couldn’t field more women.”

However, for netas, higher representation of women is nothing more than lip service. Addressing a Mahila Congress meeting in Himmatnagar, veteran leader and Congress candidate from Sabarkantha Shankarsinh Vaghela said: “Women also have an important role in Indian politics.”

He also said that women are playing a key role in bringing about fundamental changes in world politics.

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