From the Viewsroom

Just words, little action

Tina Edwin | Updated on March 26, 2019

The national parties yet again fail to field more women candidates

Women politicians have disappointingly got a raw deal once again from most political parties this election season. Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress and Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal are the only parties that have sizeable number of women candidates. Trinamool has women candidates contesting in 17 of West Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats. Patnaik has committed that a third of Odisha’s 21 Lok Sabha seats will have women contestants. However, the country’s two main national parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress, despite lending their voice power for the cause of women’s empowerment, have female candidates for just a little over 12 per of the constituencies for which they have announced the contestants. The count of women candidates from the two parties is unlikely to cross 15 per cent when their final lists are out. The Congress disappointed more, as its president Rahul Gandhi has been promising greater role for women in his party and bringing a law setting aside a third of the seats in the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies for women if his party were to come to power. The Congress should have demonstrated its commitment to the cause by fielding more women candidates. The leadership of the two parties have forgone an opportunity to voluntarily usher in gender parity in the Lok Sabha and set an example for others to follow. They have also lost a chance to assure women that gender parity in the Lok Sabha and Assemblies can be achieved without the help of legislation. There is no doubt that the leadership of the two parties would have faced some stiff resistance from male candidates, who are unwilling to cede any ground to their female counterparts.

It is argued that amending the Constitution is the only way to get more women into legislature. But that too is a tough ask — the United Progressive Alliance government’s attempts to introduce amendments in the Lok Sabha almost nine years ago was thwarted. The National Democratic Alliance, despite its majority in the House, did not even attempt. That being the case, legislative changes look remote. Therefore, the leadership of the parties need to seize the opportunity to give women the possibility to be lawmakers.

Senior Deputy Editor

Published on March 24, 2019

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