Even after 54 years of statehood and 12 assembly elections, Nagaland is yet to see any woman representative in the Assembly. The state is set to go to polls on February 27 and the results will be announced on March 3. Of the 195 candidates vying for a seat in the 60-member Assembly this time, five are women. While Wedie-u Kronu and Mangyangpula are contesting the polls on National People’s Party (NPP) tickets from Dimapur-III and Noksen Assembly constituencies, Rakhila is a BJP nominee from Tuensang Sadar-II seat.
Awan Konyak of the newly-formed Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) is fighting the election from Aboi seat and Rekha Rose Dukru is an Independent candidate from Chizami constituency. The ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF), however, has not fielded any women candidate this time.
NPF president Shurhozelie Liezietsu, during a recent media interaction, said: “No woman in the party has shown interest in contesting the polls.” Barring Rakhila, the four other women candidates are first timers. The BJP nominee is wife of former minister and four-time legislator Lakiumong, who died in 2006 after a prolonged illness. Rakhila lost the last election from the same Tuensang Sadar-II seat by around 800 votes.
“Men in power do not perform. I will do what they haven’t done so far,” said Rakhila. NDPP candidate Awan Konyak is daughter of four-time former MLA Nyeiwang Konyak, who passed away earlier this month. “Women make significant contributions to the society every day. Their problems, however, are often ignored. I want to focus on gender equality and women empowerment,” she said. Mangyangpula, an alternative medicine practitioner, said Noksen is 100 per cent ready for a woman leader.
“The ground reality in this constituency is horrible even after 50 years of the states formation,” she said. Men and women together in the 60-member House will make a lot of difference, Rekha Rose Dukru, an entrepreneur-turned-politician, said. Wedie-U Kronu, a social worker, feels women can bring positive changes in the society. “It is difficult to clean the system of corruption. I entered politics to bring about a change in the system,” she said. All five of them have been campaigning on social media for a few weeks.
Welcoming the women candidates, Nagaland Chief Electoral Officer, Abhijit Sinha, said the number has increased from two in last elections to five this time. The adviser of Naga Mothers Association (NMA), an apex women’s body in the state, Rosemary Dzuvichu, said, “We are happy to see these women step into the fray. All women voters in these constituencies must support and vote for them.” Women participation is equally important as that of men, said social activist and entrepreneur Elu Ndang. “We should encourage Naga women to participate in the decision-making bodies,” she said. Rano Shaiza, a member of United Democratic Party, was the first and only woman in this state who was elected to Lok Sabha in 1977. She died of age-related ailments in 2015.