While the need for greater representation of women in politics is being increasingly stressed nowadays, way back during the first general elections held in 1951, Puneites had elected a female MP as their representative.
Indirabai Maydeo, a Gandhian, who had taken part in the country’s struggle for Independence, had been given the honour of becoming a member of Parliament in the first Lok Sabha. Contesting on a Congress ticket from the then Poona South constituency, Maydeo had defeated Socialist Party candidate Shridhar Limaye by a substantial margin.
The city was covered under the Bombay region then, since the state of Maharashtra was not formed, when the first general elections took place. The Bombay region has a total of 37 constituencies, including Poona Central, from where another Congress candidate, Narhar Gadgil, was chosen as MP along with Maydeo.
Recalling the 1951 elections, veteran socialist leader Bhai Vaidya said voters were curious about the first-ever general elections since they were exercising their right to vote for the very first time.
“Indirabai was actively involved in public life before the Independence as well as after. She was the topmost woman leader of Congress in Pune during those days. The Congress leadership had no qualms in pitching her as the Lok Sabha candidate, and Indirabai lived up to those expectations,” he said.
Pushpa Maydeo, Indirabai’s daughter-in-law, said her mother-in-law was the obvious choice for Congress for the Pune seat because of her public reach. “She was a graduate and was part of every agitation Mahatma Gandhiji had called for. She did not have a political background, but her contribution during the pre-Independence movement, and her social touch, presented her as a promising candidate before Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru,” she said.
Pushpa said her mother-in-law focused on fulfilling educational needs and availing of employment opportunities during her tenure as MP.
It is noteworthy that Maydeo had a more impressive victory among Congress candidates from the city. While she had secured nearly 64 per cent of total votes cast, Narhar Gadgil, better known as Kakasaheb Gadgil, had secured around 53 per cent of the total votes.
“Maydeo, so far, has been the one and only woman Lok Sabha MP from Pune. It shows the apathy of political parties when it comes to fielding women candidates for important election like Lok Sabha. Though women have been given 50 per cent reservation in local self-govering bodies, they still have a long way to go when it comes to representing in the Parliament,” women rights activist Lata Bhise-Sonwane said.