Shaina N C, the BJP’s spokesperson and one of its most visible faces in Maharashtra, is “upset and appalled” that when the TMC and the BJD have implemented or breached the 33 per cent mark for women candidates this Lok Sabha elections, all other parties have not — including her own.
“It requires political will, respect for women, belief in women as a votebank…not just lip service to our cause, manifesto after manifesto…there is a male chauvinistic mindset in political parties, so whenever a woman’s name comes up as a candidate, there are questions about winnability, about funding, unless it is somebody’s daughter, somebody’s daughter-in-law,” Shaina, who has not been given a ticket to contest, told The Indian Express.
“Here on, I will champion the cause of reservation even if I have to fight the male chauvinistic mindset in my party and all other parties,” she said.
Asked whether her party lacked the political will, respect or belief to give more tickets to women, Shaina said: “You are trying to get me into trouble.”
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With seven out of 25 seats, 28 per cent of the BJP’s candidates in Maharashtra are women, its highest ever. But Shaina pointed out that many of those candidates are “daughters of party leaders”.
“Seven candidates — you think that’s enough? Of the three — Poonam Mahajan, Pritam Munde and Heena Gavit (all sitting MPs) — are daughters of party leaders. A fourth, Smita Wagh, is a party leader’s wife. Is that what you call representation of women? I don’t mind women with family connections if they are talented but give others a chance, too,” she said.
BJP leader Eknath Khadse’s daughter-in-law Raksha Khadse, too, is in the fray for the party from the Raver Lok Sabha constituency in Maharashtra.
Shaina, a fashion designer who is also the treasurer of the BJP’s state unit, is the daughter of Nana Chudasama, the former Mumbai Sheriff. Her lone electoral outing was in 2004 from the Bandra Assembly constituency, where she lost to the Congress candidate.
Asked if she was upset over being denied a ticket, Shaina said “it is not about me”.
“We all want to fight elections, but this is not personal. But if you do not give chances to women who do not have family connections in politics, how are women like us going to come up? It is not about me or not about one political party.”
Shaina said she is now in touch with women leaders “across political parties to start a petition for giving women their due at least within the party”.
“Ability requires opportunity. Talent needs to be showcased. Leadership across the board needs to give more women politicians a chance for us to prove our electoral competence. All the parties need to wake up. Women are 50 percent of the electorate. I am upset and appalled to know that other than (TMC supremo) Mamata Banerjee, who has given 41 percent, and (BJD chief) Naveen Patnaik, who has given 33 percent to women candidates, all other parties only pay lip service to our cause,” she said.
However, Shaina said it is easier for people like Banerjee and Patnaik “perhaps, because they are the lone leaders of their parties”.
“What is worrisome is that we are still having dialogue and discussion on the most basic rights that any human being should be entitled to. That is why 33 per cent reservation must be a collective, concerted, conscious effort by all women in public life,” she said.