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Women get a raw deal in Uttarakhand

NDTV has produced an important news item that speaks volumes about the current election season. It seems this time around, all parties have dropped any pretense of gender equality, and opted to elect the old boys’ networks from their ranks.

That Sushila Baloni was denied a ticket from Rajpur for the BJP is ironic, considering she went out of her way to join the party, and now has got nothing in return. She did come second in the Dehradun Mayoral race, so she could have easily done well, but like other parties, entrenched interests have prevailed. Now they will have to face all the dissidents.

It is also disappointing that the UKD only gave 3 tickets to women amongst their 58 candidates. Back in 2002, they were thinking about a 33% reservation, and the Uttarakhand Mahila Manch were pushing them for 50%.

Given the systematic nature of this failure, especially in a state where women power is so important, further points to the pressing need of convoking a constituent assembly to draw up the state’s new constitution. Perhaps this should be the next step taken up by the Uttarakhand movement so that all sections of the population can participate in setting the agenda of the next government and the constitutional framework in which the political system must operate.

Women get a raw deal in Uttarakhand

Tania Saili Bakshi, NDTV
Sunday, February 4, 2007 (Dehradun)

Seven from the BJP, six from the Congress and three from the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal.

That is the total number of women who have been given tickets by political parties from among the 70 Assembly constituencies.

That too in a state where women have spearheaded almost every noteworthy environmental and social movement.

Renu Bist is one of the six lucky women to have got a ticket from the Congress but she feels there’s no substitute for hard work.

“Being a woman Sonia Gandhi too would definitely like to give more tickets to women worker, but it is necessary to win seats so that we can form the government, so I would advice all women to work hard for their ticket,” said Renu Bist, Congress candidate, Yumkeshwar Block.

Other side

But then there are those like Sushila Baloni, a prominent figure in Uttarakhand’s politics since 1977 and in her late 60s.

She was denied a ticket and criticises the bias against women candidates.

“I was a qualified candidate for the elections. I have been a part of every political or social movement in the state, but I have been ignored. I will fight for my right till the end,” said Sushila Baloni, BJP member.

From women in politics to women in Uttarakhand’s villages, there is a pervading sense of discontent.

And women in Uttarakhand are determined to ensure that their vote speaks for them, at least in the seven districts, where women will be contesting the Assembly elections.

“All political parties don’t let women come to the forefront,” said Shaila Bahuguna, a Garhwali. “Political parties want women voters to vote for them, but will never let women contest elections,” said Manju, another local.

Women power in Uttarakhand has been a tool of convenience, one that has been effectively used to spearhead movements.

But with only a handful of women candidates being fielded by political parties across the state, Uttarakhand’s women have sworn to make a difference, and this time through their collective franchise.