Their representation is negligible compared to the 2009 elections
As the battle lines are drawn for what is being billed as the significant election in Telangana when the decades old demand for its statehood was conceded as an acknowledgement of people’s aspirations, a perception too has gained ground that the women force, who participated in the movement shoulder-to-shoulder with men, did not get due representation in the electoral battle.
It is the same story across all political parties. The Congress fielded just eight women out of 119 Assembly constituencies and none for the 17 Lok Sabha seats. The TRS chose 12 women, including one for the Lok Sabha. The Telugu Desam could only accommodate nine woman candidates as part of its tie-up with BJP. “After all, it is not as if every man who is given a ticket is sure to win, yet the mindset prevails,” a senior woman legislator quipped.
The expectations of more representation to fair sex in this election were high, particularly in the Congress initially with party vice-president Rahul Gandhi making it clear in many forums about greater representation to women in the political spectrum and his wish that at least 50 per cent of Congress Chief Ministers be women.
Leave alone ordinary mortals, even former Congress woman Ministers too barring D.K. Aruna kept a low profile in the last few months when they should have been on the upswing having achieved Telangana. This gave rise to speculation about changing power dynamics in the party and whether these leaders of proven track record too were not given enough say in the party affairs.
A majority of the woman leaders who made a mark in various political parties admitted that as women they were disappointed with poor ticket allocation to their gender. But be it J. Geetha Reddy, Ms. Aruna, Sunitha Laxma Reddy, Vijayashanti or Kavitha, all contestants, made it clear that their task is cut out. Their objective is to marshal all their resources as leaders, unify the cadres, deal with the disgruntled souls, outsmart the backstabbers and make it to the winning post.
Explaining that too much should not be read into their lack of visibility in the last couple of months, the former Ministers said they were busy with local body elections. The back-to-back municipal, zilla parishad and mandal parishad elections in the run up to the Assembly elections were another major responsibility, they said.
Ms. Geetha Reddy, who nurtured Zaheerabad constituency, says despite changing power equations, her strength is people of her constituency who are solidly behind her.
Ms. Aruna, perhaps, is an exception as her say prevailed in the selection of candidates in her native Mahabubnagar district.
Ms. Laxma Reddy says it is because of party’s policy decision to retain sitting members, more women could not be accommodated. Reservations in local bodies will bring in a remarkable change in women participation in 2019 elections, she observed. Ms. Reddy whose inputs were sought for the party manifesto says she never had any reason to feel she was sidelined in the party because of her gender.
Ms. Kavitha of TRS, who is fielded from Nizamabad Lok Sabha seat, acknowledges women representation in legislatures has been dismal across all parties. “ My effort will definitely be towards strengthening women leadership in the party,” she says. The other practice for the political parties is to allot what is called losing propositions to minorities and women just to fill the quota for them, she feels. Film star-turned-politician and Telangana protagonist, Ms. Vijayashanti says women are still hesitant to enter electoral politics. “If they take the first step, opportunities are good,” she says.