Updated: January 29, 2022 6:59:03 pm
In an election where parties have been trying to outdo each other to attract women voters, a demographic that comprises at least half the state’s 2.12 crore voters, the number of women candidates remains abysmally low in Punjab.
Of the 117 candidates of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BSP alliance, only five are women. That’s around 4 per cent of the total candidates. Of the five, four are of the SAD, which is contesting on 97 seats, and one of the Mayawati-led BSP, which is contesting on 20 seats.
The Congress, which has launched a high-profile campaign in UP revolving around women — even promising to set aside 40 per cent of its tickets for them — has announced tickets on 109 seats in Punjab, of which the party has given only 11 (10 per cent of total seats) to women.
The AAP, which is attempting to project itself as a change from established parties, has announced tickets on all 117 seats, giving only 12 (10 per cent) of those to women.
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The BJP-led alliance that has Captain Amarinder Singh’s Punjab Lok Congress and SAD (Sanyukt) as partners, has given tickets to eight women out of 106 candidates announced so far (around 7.5 per cent of total candidates).
While the representation to women in terms of tickets announced by all parties remains low, that has not stopped political parties from going all out to get their votes.
The SAD was the first off the blocks when its chief Sukhbir Singh Badal announced Rs 2,000 per month to every woman head of BPL families with ‘blue ration cards’, if the SAD-BSP alliance is voted to power in the state.
In December last year, AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal had announced Rs 1,000 per month for every woman of Punjab aged 18 or above. Earlier this month, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Navjot Singh Sidhu promised Rs 2,000 a month to every woman homemaker in Punjab, in addition to eight cooking gas cylinders free of cost every year, if the Congress forms the government.
Among the 11 women candidates fielded by the party are former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (Lehra constituency); two sitting Cabinet ministers Aruna Chaudhary (Dinanagar-SC) and Razia Sultana (Malerkotla); sitting MLA Rupinder Kaur Ruby (Malout-SC) who won in 2017 on an AAP ticket and is now with the Congress; and debutant Malvika Sood (Moga), the sister of actor Sonu Sood.
On the gender skew in the party’s candidates, Sunil Jakhar, senior Congress leader and poll campaign committee chief in Punjab, said, “I can only say that nobody has been denied a ticket because of their gender. The problem is that you have to nurture them prior to elections. It is not something that happens overnight. Priyanka-ji was there [in Uttar Pradesh]. She worked on the ground to bring women aspirants up. In Punjab, the process has started and I think it will take a while for them to establish themselves in the political arena. In coming times, we can expect more women claiming their rightful place in politics.” Among the AAP women candidates are two sitting MLAs Baljinder Kaur (Talwandi Sabo) and Saravjit Kaur Manuke (Jagraon-SC); singer-turned-politician Anmol Gagan Maan (Kharar); and Jeevanjot Kaur, who has been fielded from the high-profile Amritsar East seat.
AAP MLA from Driba and Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema said, “We have given maximum tickets to all those women candidates who were active on the ground.”
Of the four women fielded by SAD, at least two of them, Jasdeep Kaur and Sunita Chaudhary, are first-timers and relatives of Akali leaders. Jasdeep was declared party nominee from Khanna after the Punjab and Haryana High Court dismissed her husband Akali leader Yadwinder Singh Yadu’s plea to contest the polls. Yadu was booked in 14 FIRs, including criminal cases. Sunita Chaudhary, who will contest from Balachaur, is daughter-in-law of former Akali MLA, late Chaudhary Nand Lal.
The most high-profile of the four Akali contenders is Jagir Kaur, nominee from Bholath.
SAD spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said, “The party always makes an effort for women to get maximum representation… But there are practical difficulties. Assembly constituencies are huge and in some of them, it becomes difficult even for men to travel long distances and campaign.”
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