Apr 02, 2023
Apr 02, 2023
by Tapasya Iyer
One of the new things that is getting bandied out at election rallies in Uttar Pradesh is ‘gender’. There is a sudden increase in the number of tickets for women and women-centric manifestoes of the parties. Will gender-centric slogans encourage women-policy makers to voice their opinions?
With an aim to regain its position in the state, the Congress has given 40 percent tickets to women. Additionally, Priyanka Gandhi announced a woman-centric manifesto titled ‘Shakti Vidhan’. This manifesto includes reservation of 40% of 20 lakh new jobs, more than 25% women police-officers, and Rs. 1000 pension for every woman senior citizen and widow in the state.
Women played a crucial role
The Constituent assembly included 15 women members from different regions of the country. Nitish Nawsagray, Professor of Constitutional law, Indian Law Society, Pune, Maharashtra, said: “Each women member gave a completely fresh and unique perspective in the assembly. They were people from different religions, castes and socio-economic backgrounds bringing a diverse spectrum of ideas.”
Samajwadi Party led by Akhilesh Yadav has also promised a 33% reservation to women in government jobs, free education to girls from kindergarten to post-graduation, and reinstatement of Kanya Vidya Dhan Yojana. The ruling state party, Bharatiya Janata Party also tried to woo the women voters. It has promised free rides to women in public transport and free higher education. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced setting aside Rs. 1000 crore to form women self-help groups in the state. The BJP has also appointed 60,000 women 'vistarak’ (expansionists) to propagate the party’s goodwill and schemes to women.
The main reason for this change in the Indian political sphere is the increasing number of women voters.
According to the Election Commission’s office, enrolment of women voters is larger this year. Women voters in UP have outvoted men since the last three elections. Pallavi, a voter from Kanpur, said: “Both at the Centre as well as the state assembly, men dominate the discourse. There is a need for women candidates. So, if there is a deserving woman candidate from my constituency, I will vote for her, irrespective of the party.”
In the 2017 assembly elections, a record of 40 women candidates had won the seats, the highest ever proportion of female members in the Uttar Pradesh House.
Tara Krishnaswamy, co-founder of ‘Shakti- Political power to women’, a non-partisan group that works for increasing women representation in government, remarked: “India needs to have a critical mass of women in Parliament and state assemblies for proper representation. The addition of women members in the political process hugely impacts governance, not just the elections.”
The slight inclination of political parties towards women issues is a welcome change. However, this should not end with tall promises and hollow schemes. Richa Som, a policy maker in Madhya Pradesh’s health department, who has closely watched the Indian state elections said: “These political strategies do affect the mob mentality. However, in my experience with Indian politics, such trends come and go like a wave.”
Until all the political parties join the effort, a change cannot be brought. Tara explained: “We have had 41% tickets given to women by TMC in West Bengal and 33% tickets given by Biju Janata Dal in Odisha. These are all good indications of change but only some opposition parties are providing adequate electoral opportunities for women in politics. The long-overdue women reservation bill which provides 33% seats for women in Lok Sabha and state assemblies, is still not passed by the government.”
The conversation around gender representation in politics has begun. The emerging women-policy makers and large number of voters look like a positive step in the feminist movement. Tara concluded: “Women must join the governance and law-making in great numbers. Hope for better policies for women is not our plan. Action for change by everyone should be our plan.”
(Inputs from Shashwat Garg)
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