If the number of women candidates nominated by a party is any indication of the outfits desire to empower women,then the Trinamool Congress has beaten the Left Front hands down.
The Left Front that welcomed the election of Pratibha Patil as the President because shes a woman and pressed the UPA government for the Womens Reservation Bill has only two women in its list of 42 candidates for Lok Sabha polls from West Bengal,one less than its 2004 tally. In contrast,the Trinamool Congress has nominated five women from its kitty of 28 seats that the party will contest in alliance with the Congress.
Among the Left,the CPM has fielded two women from its quota of 32 seats. The other Left partners – CPI,RSP and the Forward Bloc have not fielded a single woman.
Pouring cold water on the expectations of some women CPM leaders,who were keen to see an increase in number of women candidates from the party considering the dent of Left vote bank by Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee,the Marxists lived up to its tradition of keeping women out from vital positions of the party,government and legislative bodies.
A quick survey of womens participation in CPMs parliamentary group shows the partys dismal record for the past three decades. Since it formed the government in West Bengal in 1977,the party managed to send only five women to the Lok Sabha.
The picture is equally dismal in the state Assembly. The seven consecutive governments formed by the Front in the state also expose their reluctance to introduce more women in the corridors of power.
Akin to veteran Jyoti Basus Cabinets,incumbent Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has denied women from important ministerial berths. Minister for Backward Classes Development Debalina Hembram and Minister for Self Help Group Rekha Goswami are the only two women ministers in Bhattacharjees 42-member Cabinet.
The number of women ministers has never exceeded three. And those nominated were allotted insignificant departments like library development,mass education,relief and rehabilitation etc.
Within the party too,the womens participation is equally dismal. The male dominance in the CPM begins from the grassroots level and continues upward to the top in the partys five-tier structure.
The state secretariat,the apex executive body of the state committee,has no woman member. In the 83-member state committee,the presence of women is negligible.
None of the secretaries of the 19 district committees is a woman,although some members of the committees are women. The zonal committees as well as the local committees rarely have a woman or two,but none of their secretaries is a woman.
Recently,senior CPM leaders called for having at least two women in each of the 25,650 parts grassroots units in West Bengal that have 9 to 15 members. Had this been strictly implemented,the total number of women in these committees would have gone up to over 50,000.
But as per the latest party report,the total number of women in these committees stood at around 37,000 in 2007 and around 9000 units had no women members at all. Women account for only 12 to 13 per cent of the total 3,14,000 party members.
Leaders of the CPMs womens front admitted that the party is trying to involve more women in the party affairs.
Rekha Goswami said all political parties are opposing women empowerment in a veiled manner. She however,refused to comment on her partys role in introducing more women in power structure.
Only I can say that more women should be brought into the helm of power and it should be initiated by the Centre. A state will implement it only if there is legislation, said Goswami.
Minati Sen,who has been dropped this time from the CPMs list of candidates for this Lok Sabha election,said it was totally up to the party to decide on candidature.
But poor participation of women is always a matter of concern for us and it is a reality in West Bengal, said Sen.
Where are women leaders in Bengals CPM
Total Seats: 292
CPM MLAs :175
Women CPM MLAs: 15
In state cabinet
Total ministers: 42
women ministers : 2
* Women members in state secretariat: zero
* Women district committee secretary: zero
* Percentage of women party members: 12 percent of total strength