Op-Ed: Major parties pay lip service to women’s cause

Bhubaneswar: Pradesh Mahila Congress chief, Sumitra Jena has vociferously complained about inadequate representation to women in the distribution of party tickets. The first list of the party for the Lok Sabha did not have the name of any woman which was in sharp contrast to Biju Janata Dal (BJD) which fielded three women for Lok Sabha constituencies going to polls in the first and the second phases. Among them was 68-year-old SHG leader, Pramila Bisoi, whose candidature is being seen as a shining example of women empowerment.

Chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, who has assured 33 percent Lok Sabha seats to women, had announced Bisoi’s name with a sense of pride saying he was fielding her from Aska, the constituency from where he had begun his political career. The chief minister was clearly addressing his woman constituency which has been faithfully voting for him election after election.

But even Patnaik has been criticized for not making the assurance of a similar representation to women in the distribution of tickets for the state Assembly. That, it is said, would have opened a Pandora’s box as the number of seats in the assembly is as high as 147 in contrast to 21 in the Lok Sabha. So 33 percent reservation to women in the state Assembly would effectively shrink the political space for men which might trigger a rebellion within the party which is already in the throes of political convulsions following large-scale dissatisfaction over distribution of tickets.

The situation is worse in the Congress where the exodus of leaders continues, the latest to quit the party being former Bargarh MLA, Sadhu Nepak who after being denied ticket from the constituency has joined the BJD. Before Nepak four sitting MLAs—Jogesh Singh ( Sundergarh), Naba Kishore Das (Jharsuguda), Krushna Chandra Sagaria (Koraput) and Prakash Behera ( Salipur)— had turned their backs on the party. Of these, the first two joined the BJD and have been made party candidates from their respective constituencies while Behera is contesting on the lotus symbol. Sagaria, who embraced the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), is also reported to have entered the poll fray.

Under the circumstances, the state Congress leadership, despite its ideological commitment to women empowerment, cannot afford to allot as many party tickets to the fairer sex members as Sumitra Jena wants. The clever politician that he is, the PCC chief, instead of admitting this, has accused Jena of being disgruntled after failing to get the party ticket from the constituency of her choice.

BJP’s record on the front of allotment of tickets to women has been much better than the Congress, but if sources are to be believed, there is still resentment among party cadres over the issue. The general grouse is that the party has mostly obliged high profile women while many deserving claims have been ignored.

As campaigning gathers momentum more such complaints will be heard. But rest assured that the leaderships of various parties will find ways of skirting the issue. The truth is major parties continue to pay only lip service to the cause of women.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)