Lucknow voters on Sunday cast ballots to elect their first woman mayor in the ongoing civic body polls in Uttar Pradesh which already has the distinction of giving the country its first woman governor and chief minister. As many as 23,27,900 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in 2,201 polling booths, Lucknow District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma said.
As the exercise to choose the first woman mayor in 100 years was in progress, enthusiastic voters queued outside polling stations, enjoying a mellow sunshine on a wintry Sunday afternoon.
All the parties fielded women candidates after the Lucknow mayoral seat was reserved for women. Prominent contestants in a field of 19 are Sayukta Bhatia (BJP), Prema Awasthi (Congress), Bulbul Godiyal (BSP), Priyanka Maheshwari (AAP) and Meera Vardhan (SP). Uttar Pradesh is credited with giving the country its first woman governor Sarojini Naidu and chief minister Sucheta Kriplani.
Now, the City of Nawabs is poised to break the glass ceiling by electing its first woman mayor since the Uttar Pradesh Municipalities Act came was notified way back in 1916. “Our time has come,” feels Bhatia, while the BSP nominee says, “Better late than never”. Vardhan is the kin of educationist Acharya Narendra Dev, while Awasthi is the wife of the late Congress legislator Surendra Nath. Lucknow figured in the second leg of the three-phase municipal elections across the state.
The Uttar Pradesh Municipalities Act came into being in 1916 and Barrister Syed Nabiullah became the first Indian to head the local body. In 1948, the UP government changed the electoral nature of the local body and introduced the concept of administrator and Bhairav Datt Sanwal (ICS) was appointed to the post.
In 1959, the UP Municipalities Act, 1916, was replaced by the Uttar Pradesh Municipal Corporation Act, paving the way for the formation of the municipal corporation (nagar mahapalika) in Lucknow on February 1, 1960. It was on the intervention of the Allahabad High Court in 1989 that the government announced local bodies polls.
An amendment in the Constitution accorded the status of municipal corporation to Lucknow’s local body retrospectively from May 31, 1994. Provisions were made in the Municipality Act of 1959 to allow citizens to elect a mayor. Provision of reservation to women, SCs, STs and OBCs was also made on a rotational basis.
Kriplani, who had come to the forefront during the Quit India Movement in 1942, held the chief minister’s office from 1963 to 1967. She had worked closely with Mahatma Gandhi during the Partition riots. She was one of the few women who were elected to the Constituent Assembly and was part of the sub-committee that drafted the Constitution.
Naidu, popularly known as the ‘Nightingale of India’, was the governor of the United Provinces, now known as Uttar Pradesh, from 1947 to 1949. She was born in a Bengali family on February 13, 1879 in Hyderabad and was educated in Chennai, London and Cambridge.
Naidu too was a follower of Mahatama Gandhi and had participated in the freedom struggle. She, later, went on to become the president of the Indian National Congress. Lucknow has thrice sent a woman to the Lok Sabha as its representative with Sheila Kaul being elected in 1971, 1980 and 1984.