Indu Thaper, wife of former councillor Raju Thaper, is the Congress candidate from Ward 83, which is reserved for women this time, for the upcoming Ludhiana Municipal Corporation polls. But, the banners scream her name loud as as Indu Raju Thaper. Similarly, Anju Bagga, wife of sitting councillor Ashok Bagga, is the Congress candidate from Ward 57 and Savitri Devi from Ward 1 is wife of party leader Stephen Lal.
Mayor Harcharan Singh Gohalwaria’s wife Pushwant Kaur is Ward 41 candidate of SAD, while Rupamdeep Malhi, wife of sitting BJP councillor of Haibowal, Narinder Malhi, is the BJP candidate. R D Sharma, who was deputy mayor, fielded his mother Prem Sharma on a BJP ticket.
To give more representation to women, 50 per cent of the seats have been reserved for them in the local body polls. Ludhiana has 95 wards and 40 seats have been reserved for women in general category by the Congress. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP have 47 seats each and one ward is left open for a common candidate. The SAD and BJP have reserved 20 seats each for women candidates.
However political parties preferring the wives of sitting or former councillors or leaders has irked many active workers of the area who have started a “women empowerment” campaign, besides the ongoing poll campaign.
Taking a dig on the Congress list of women candidates, Punjab INTUC president Aneeta Sharma said their popularity can be seen from the way Congress high command has displayed the list. “Along with the women candidates, their husband’s names have been mentioned to identify them. After winning, these candidates hardly speak up in the General House. So what is the point of reservation of seats for women,” said Sharma who was a ticket aspirant for Ward 83 from where Thaper had been chosen.
Giving example of Ward 81 Congress candidate Rashi Aggarwal, Sharma said the reason she was chosen was because she is the daughter-in-law of former councillor Hem Raj Aggarwal. “Aggarwal contested as a rebel candidate from Ludhiana North in Vidhan Sabha polls and recently joined the party again. So, he is being rewarded for being a rebel and the active workers are being ignored,” said Sharma.
“I will continue the women empowerment campaign through my NGO, Belan Brigade, to make people aware of the dummy candidates,” added Sharma.
Sharma, however, added she has no issues with a councillor’s wife or other family members being given tickets. “These women should take part in active politics, on the contrary, in most cases their husbands control the whole show after winning,” she said.
Sheela Masih, a former Congress’s rural as well as urban president and a working AICC member said,” I am associated with the Congress since 1972 and I have not been chosen from my Ward 23. Instead one Sandeep Kumari, whom we have never seen in political circle before, is the candidate. She is wife of one Gaurav Bhatti who is MLA Sanjay Talwar’s supporter.”
Accepting a similar trend in the SAD, Surinder Kaur Dayal, Ludhiana president of Istri Akali Dal, however, said the party still gives representation to genuine women leaders. “No doubt wives of SAD leaders have also been chosen in a few wards,” said Dayal whose daughter Navjot Kaur is contesting from Ward 71 for the first time. She was earlier working with the IT zone of SAD in Malwa.
Kaur promised to the voters that they will not get a dummy candidate this time. “I will represent the voters and take up all their issues in the General House,” said Kaur. SAD also followed the same way when they released party tickets by giving names of husbands of the women candidates. Dayal added this year most of their women workers did not opt for tickets as they saw anarchy in Jalandhar, Patiala and Amritsar. “So we have no issues with the women candidates,” said the Istri Akali Dal leader.
Ravinder Arora, BJP’s district president, said win factor is also important. “But, we have given chances to fresh faces as well. Anupam Bhanot is the woman candidate from Ward 73 and her family has no political record. She is a teacher in Satpaul Mittal School. So, we have chosen an educated candidate,” said Arora.