Bihar’s sex ratio is 916 and female literacy just 53%, 10 points lower than for men. Shift to politics and the picture changes. Bihar, along with West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, has the highest number of women legislators in the country — 34 — and the single highest proportion at 14%.
Contrast this with Kerala, where female literacy is 92% but only 5% of the legislators are women. Women outnumbered men among voters in the 2010 assembly and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Bihar was the first state — in 2005 — to reserve 50% seats in local bodies for women when the quota mandated by the Panchayati Raj Act was only 33%.
Since the rise of the Janata parties, the number of women MLAs has been going up. However, the preference for women MLAs among voters has not been recognised by parties. For instance, only 90 women were fielded in 2010 — 9% of the total — of whom 34 got elected, 23 from the JD(U) and 10 from the BJP, with one independent.
Lalu Prasad’s RJD gave the state its only woman CM, but it is Nitish Kumar who seems to have recognised a potential votebank among women.
In his two terms, he tailored policies for women — tuition waivers and free bicycles for girl students, a 50% quota in teacher recruitment, a 35% quota in recruitment of police constables and sub-inspectors, a Women Empowerment Policy. Voter surveys have shown that Nitish has more supporters among women.
Who was where:
Akabaruddin Owaisi: Brother of AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi addressed a rally in Kishanganj Sunday. He accused the Congress of being responsible for the demolition of the Babri Masjid and blamed its “inefficiency” for Narendra Modi’s ascent to power. “Had Congress acted swiftly with an iron fist against Modi and filed a chargesheet against him (on Gujarat riots)… he would not have become prime minister,” he said.
Union Ministers: Sushma Swaraj, in Samastipur, warned of jungle raj 2 if the grand alliance wins. Piyush Goyal said in Patna that Bihar has failed to generate a single MW in the last 10 years and reminded Nitish Kumar of his promise not to seek votes if he failed to provide power to all by 2015. J P Nadda, also in Patna, described fall in number of patients in OPDs and in institutional delivery in 2014-15.
Amit Shah: BJP chief in Muzaffarpur and Katihar. “On one shoulder of Nitish Kumar is Lalu Prasad who is a symbol of jungle raj while on his other shoulder is the corrupt Congress. He is just a mascot for them,” he said.