STRESSING THAT the prevailing “politics of hate” can be changed by women in politics, AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra Tuesday made her first big move in the run-up to the UP polls and announced that 40 per cent of Congress tickets will be reserved for women this time.
“UP mein Congress party 40 per cent ticket mahilaon ko degi. Humari pratigya hai ki mahilayen UP ki rajneeti mein puri tarah bhagidar hongi (Congress will reserve 40 per cent tickets for women in UP. It is our pledge that women will participate fully in UP’s politics),” Priyanka said.
However, responding to a question, the Congress leader said she is yet to take a decision on whether she would herself contest the assembly elections slated to be held in a few months.
Later, responding to a question from ANI on contesting from Rae Bareli or Amethi, Priyanka said: “Ek-na-ek din toh ladna hi hai, na (I will have to fight from there one day, isn’t it).” She reiterated, however, that the “decision has not yet been taken”. “We will see as things develop,” she said.
Asked earlier if Tuesday’s move would lead to party leaders fielding their wives, daughters and other women members of the family, Priyanka said: “I don’t feel there is anything wrong in this.” She said the Congress decision is “just the start of empowerment of women”, and selection would be done “purely on merit”.
देश एवं उत्तरप्रदेश की महिलाओं को समर्पित मेरी प्रेस वार्ता।
Priyanka said she had initially wanted to reserve 50 per cent of tickets for women but decided on 40 per cent after consultations with other party leaders as AICC general secretary in charge of the state.
Priyanka said the party has extended the deadline for submission of applications for party tickets — it had ended on October 15 — only for women to November 15 so that they “can come forward and participate”. “If you want change, don’t wait,” she said.
The Congress has failed to make a mark in UP over the last three decades. The party won just seven seats in the 2017 assembly polls. Two years later, Priyanka was made AICC general secretary in charge of the state in the run-up to the general elections. The party went on to win one Lok Sabha seat — one less than 2014 — with Rahul Gandhi losing in the family stronghold of Amethi.
The Congress decision is a calculated move but also a challenge. In the 2017 elections to the 403-member UP assembly, the party put up 114 candidates, including 12 women. It won seven seats, including two by women.
On Tuesday, referring to meetings she has had with several women during her visits to UP over the last two years, Priyanka said that the party’s latest decision is for “common women”.
Detailing those meetings, Priyanka spoke about a student in Allahabad University who told her of alleged bias against girls in rules; a woman she met during her Ganga Yatra in Prayagraj who wanted to become a politician; the girl in Chandauli whose pilot brother had become martyr; a girl in Lakhimpur Kheri who wanted to become Prime Minister; and a women named Laxmi Valmiki in Lucknow.
“My fight is for a new kind of politics. It is for those who cannot raise their voices… so that change can come here and bring with it the politics of service instead of politics done with a feeling of being beaten or trampled,” Priyanka said.
“The politics of caste and religion can be changed to politics of development only by bringing women into politics,” she said.
Meanwhile, BSP chief Mayawati slammed the Congress decision, and described it as “a mere drama”. “When the Congress is in power and it has good days, they do not remember Dalits or women or backward. But when they are unable to recover from their bad days, they remember Dalits in Punjab and women in Uttar Pradesh, and make empty announcements of 40 per cent tickets for women,” she said.
“If the Congress was really worried about women, then during their regime at the Centre they would have implemented 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and Vidhan Sabha,” she said.
The reservation of tickets for women was a talking point in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, with Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and BJD in Odisha fielding a number of women candidates.
Of the Trinamool’s 42 candidates in Bengal, 17 (41%) were women. And of the party’s 22 elected Lok Sabha MPs, nine (41%) are women.
In Odisha, BJD had announced that it would give 33 per cent of the party’s tickets to women. From the 21 Lok Sabha seats, the BJD fielded seven women candidates, and five of them won.