Till the current elections,it had been over two decades since a woman contested from any of the constituencies in Baghpat,the home turf of RLD chief and Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh.
The last one,in fact,was his sister. The late Saroj Verma won in 1985 from Chhaprauli,one of the three Assembly seats in Baghpat.
The trend has finally been arrested,with not one but three parties fielding a woman each. Two of them are in Baghpat Assembly seat: the BSPs Hemlata Chaudhary and the Bharatiya Vanchitsamaj Partys Sunita. The third,Nasreen Khan,is contesting for the Trinamool Congress in Chhaprauli. All three are first-timers.
The third seat in Baghpat,Ajit Singhs Lok Sabha seat as well as a district,is Baraut.
District Congress president Vijendra Singh agrees it has been a long time since a woman contested,but cannot think of a reason why. His BJP counterpart,Neeraj Sharma,feels it is a coincidence. This time,women are contesting,their husbands are looking after their campaigns,says Sharma,himself a candidate in Baghpat.
Among other district party chiefs,the Samajwadi Partys Pradeep Singh agrees that the long absence of women candidates has been a coincidence. The BSPs M Jatav could not be reached for comment,while the RLDs Dhanpal Gujjar says,The district is small and has just three seats. Other parties should be asked why they did not field any woman candidate.
Though all three women candidates are contesting for the first time,Hemlata,42,does have a political connection. Her husband,Prashant Chowdhary,is a BSP MLC who joined the party in 2007,and who was with the Congress before that. Prashant,a businessman,says it was Mayawatis decision to field a woman candidate in Baghpat.
Thanks to such a background,Hemalata is familiar with the basics of campaigning,which she began around three months ago. The art of delivering speeches,however,is new to her and she struggled initially,but in the last two months,I have made several speeches.
She visits two or three villages every day,accompanied by women of her family and neighbourhood. She says she is focusing on women voters and Prashant on the men. I go to each house and urge the women to vote, says Hemlata,an MA and a B Ed,whose contest will be mainly against the RLDs Kokab Hameed and the SPs Sahab Singh.
When the Bharatiya Vanchitsamaj Party decided to field Sunita in Baghpat,it was under the belief that no other party would field a woman,going by the trend,says the partys western UP president,Lokender Singh Hewa. But now that the BSP too has fielded a woman,it does not matter.
Sunita,28,runs a computer centre in Baghpat.
Nasreen Khan is a doctor with a nursing home in Baghpat. We have given preference to women candidates, says S P Singh,the Trinamools UP coordinator. Our party chairperson is a woman.