Though most vocal among political parties on the passage of the Women's Reservations Bill, arch rivals Trinamool Congress and Left parties have failed to set an example when it comes to nominating women candidates for the Lok Sabha election in West Bengal.
While the candidate list for the 42 Lok Sabha seats announced by the Trinamool Congress has 11 women, the Left Front list has only six.
As the world celebrates International Women's Day today, the discrepancy between promises of empowering women and efforts to keep them becomes prominent, particularly because the TMC is headed by a woman - Mamata Banerjee and the CPI-M has a prominent woman leader - Brinda Karat Although the TMC has nominated more women candidates than the Left Front, it has nonetheless failed to give one-third of the seats to women.
Asked to account for this, TMC general secretary Mukul Roy told PTI, "It is a continuous process and nomination of more women will happen slowly. In the panchayat election, we had given 50 per cent nomination to women candidates. In the Lok Sabha, we have given tickets to 11 women candidates." In the 42-member Bengal ministry too, there are only three women ministers.
The CPI(M) leadership, on the other hand, accepted that there should have been more women candidates in the party's list of candidates, but sought to put the blame on the district grassroot level leadership whose mindset, he acknowledged, had not undergone much change and acted as a roadblock.
"We may have failed to convince the district and grassroot level leadership on nominating more women candidates," former minister and CPI(M) central committee member Rekha Goswami told.
Goswami, a prominent woman face of Left politics in Bengal, noted that the political parties were nothing but a reflection of the society they represent and the Indian society was still male-dominated.
It is also true that the list has been prepared keeping in mind the tough times the Left parties are undergoing in the state," she said
However, Left woman candidate Subhasini Ali, who is also CPI(M) central committee member, felt that the party's nomination of six women candidates was a "good and a welcome step".
"The party has taken a good and a welcome step. Last time the Left had nominated lesser number of women candidates than this time," Ali noted.
She argued that the CPI(M) might be a strong advocate of Women's Reservation Bill, but it was yet to become a law.
Hence, the party was not bound to nominate one-third of its seats to women.
Ali also noted that the CPI(M) has only 32 seats out of 42 and the rest are contested by other Left Front partners.
Left Front chairman and CPI (M) state secretary Biman Bose said that from next time onwards, the party would nominate more women candidates.
The Women's Reservation Bill which was passed in Rajya Sabha in 2010 but not in the Lok Sabha, proposes to reserve 33 per cent seats in Lok Sabha, state legislatures and local bodies.
Although BJP and Congress criticised the TMC and the Left for nominating less women candidates, they have also not fared any better in the nomination of women candidates in elections till now.
Congress, which is yet to come out with its candidate list, said both the Trinamool and the CPI(M) never preach what they say.
"We have seen on other issues too that Trinamool and CPI(M) do diagonally opposite things than what they actually claim," Congress MP Mausam Benazir Noor said.
Noor, who along with Congress MP Deepa Dasmunsi are the only two women Congress MPs from the state, hoped that the party high command would nominate more women for the Lok Sabha poll.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, the Congress had nominated Benazir Noor and Deepa Dasmunshi in a list of 14 candidates. However, it fought the last Lok Sabha election in alliance with the Trinamool Congress.
The BJP, which has already announced candidates for 17 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal, too has not fielded any woman in those seats.
"We will try to put more women candidates. We have been serious about women's reservation. We are not like the CPI(M) and Trinamool which shed crocodile tears over women's reservation," BJP national executive member Siddharth Nath Singh told PTI.
Political analyst Udayan Bandyopadhyay feels that the political parties who support Women's Reservation Bill themselves are not serious about it.
"It is basically gender at play and the party leadership is dominated by men," he said.
State Women's Commission chairperson Sunanda Mukherjee said, "The male-dominated Left parties talk a lot about women empowerment, but when it comes to empowering women in their own parties, they lack the will to do it."