The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is dependent almost entirely on Mayawati to campaign for its candidates for the Assembly polls here. The Samajwadi Party (SP) and Congress are keen on using Dimple Yadav and Priyanka Gandhi as their star campaigners. Even the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is looking to former Union Minister Smriti Irani and Parliamentarian Hema Malini for getting votes.
While the parties are keen to project women leaders to garner votes, none of them has shown the same enthusiasm in fielding women candidates.
For example, this time, besides Priyanka, there are seven other women campaigners in the Congress – that number is more than the number of women candidates it has given tickets to. The Congress has 105 seats in its alliance with the SP it has fielded a measly six women, or less than 10 per cent of the 68 nominations announced so far.
The party has given ticket to social activist, Sampat Pal of Gulabi Gang fame as well as Aradhana Mishra, amongst others. Mishra is the sitting MLA who won her father Promod Tiwari’s seat Rampur Khas in the previous state elections. Tiwari is a nine-time Congress MLA and now a Rajya Sabha member.
The BSP’s numbers are more stark. For a party that is led by a woman, the BSP only has national president Mayawati as a female star campaigner. Worse, of the 402 nominations it has announced, only 16 women have managed to get a ticket to contest.
Ironically, the party that is seen as the most conservative in terms of gender equality, the Bharatiya Janata Party BJP) has the maximum number of women contenders, with 42 of 371 candidates women.
“The tally of women candidates underlines the attitude of political parties towards women,” says Madhu Garg, a social activist. “Even the women star campaigners are from the glass ceiling and none of them is a grassroots politician.”
Garg alleges that political parties perceive women as a threat and this is why the Women Reservation Bill has not been cleared in 20 years.
Even the Samajwadi Party (SP), which does not lose any opportunity to showcase its 1090 Women Powerline, has fielded only about 36 women candidates. The party is contesting 298 seats after giving 105 to its alliance partner Congress. Even its women star campaigners’ list features a miserly two names – Jaya Bachchan and Dimple Yadav.
In the SP’s list of candidates, nine women candidates are Yadavs, including Aparna Yadav, the younger daughter-in-law of Mulayam Singh Yadav.
“The party has given 9-10 per cent tickets to women, which is less as compared to previous many elections,” admits Juhie Singh, the spokesperson of the SP, but is quick to point out that the situation is the same for other stories.
However, while many new faces have got a chance, none of them have come up from the grassroots, with the majority of them from political dynasties.
For example, BJP has fielded Mriganka Singh from Kairana constituency – she is the daughter of senior BJP leader Hukum Singh, was a BJP MLA in 2002, 2007 and 2012.
It has also given a ticket to Swati Singh from Sarojini Nagar seat in Lucknow. Swati is the wife of Daya Shankar Singh, who is facing expulsion from the party after he used derogatory language against Mayawati.
Another new entrant, Garima Singh, is the estranged wife of Congress leader Sanjay Singh. She is contesting on a BJP ticket from Amethi. The SP had fielded Gayatri Prajapati from this seat but vacated it after the alliance with Congress was struck.
Another BJP candidate is Neelam Karvaria, the wife of mafia politician Udaybhan Karvaria from his seat Meja, in Allahabad. The party has given ticket to Neelima Katiyar, the daughter of senior leader Premlata Katiyar from her seat in Kalyanpur in Kanpur.
BSP has given tickets to Vandana Singh, the widow of former MLA Sarvesh Singh from his Sagdi seat.
A few independent candidates, who want to try their luck, have also thrown their hats into the ring.
Aditi Singh, contesting from the Sadar seat of Rae Bareli, has joined the Congress but her name does not figure in the party list so far. Aditi’s father Akhilesh Singh is an influential politician, who has independently won the seat five times, and has now handed over his legacy to his daughter.
The 10 seats across Rae Bareli and Amethi are undergoing fresh negotiations after the SP and Congress alliance. However, the seat is likely to stay in Singh’s family, whether she gets the ticket or contests independently.
Kundanika Sharma is the daughter of poet Gopal Das Neeraj, who is considered to be close to Mulayam. Kundanika was an SP candidate before the family feud but her name was scrubbed after. Before going to SP, she was in the BJP, and was a corporator from Balkeshwar in Agra.
After being denied ticket when Akhilesh Yadav took over as party chief, Kundanika has decided to contest as an independent from Agra.