IFP Editorial: Women coming into politics on their own or strength or independent political career is still rare in Manipur.
Updated 22 Dec 2021, 6:27 am
Manipur Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president A Sharda Devi has recently upped the ante for more women candidates in the party ticket and it has certainly struck a chord with women aspirants for the BJP ticket, including even those who never even had an ambition to dive into electoral politics as a candidate.
With 33 per cent seats reserved for women in local bodies based on the objective of reducing the gender gap in decision making process, we have been seeing a number of women pradhans, Zilla Parishad or panchayat members and even Adyakshas or Up-Adyakshas in rural bodies and women representatives in the urban local bodies.
However in reality, it is mostly the spouses of the women representatives who is really controlling or making decisions behind the screen while they actually remain figureheads. And the question whether reservation for women in political spaces is really helping the cause of women empowerment or is it becoming a projection of the notion of a space allowed by men for women to operate on their whims, naturally comes up.
And also, there is the question of whether the women candidates are actually contesting elections in the local bodies in their own right or as mere proxies of their spouses whenever the seats become reserved for women in the lotteries? In most cases, the latter seems to be the reality where the women proxies either retain the hold till it becomes unreserved or warm up the seats for their spouses. And, we are sure this is certainly not helping the cause of women empowerment in politics.
In Manipur, we have had women MLAs in the past like Hangmila Shaiza, Wahengbam Leima Devi, Oinam Mema Devi and Okram Landhoni Devi besides AK Mirabai of Congress and Nemcha Kipgen of BJP who are currently the MLAs of Patsoi and Kangpokpi.
Well, Hangmila is the wife of former CM Yangmaso Shaiza, W Leima the wife of former Congress MP W Angou, O Mema the wife of former minister Oinam Bira and O Landhoni the wife of the present opposition leader O Ibobi Singh. While the previous four had won the assembly seats on the goodwill nurtured or left by their spouses, the latter two Ak Mirabai and Nemcha Kipgen won on their own merit or ‘clout’ whatever that is.
Point is, women coming into politics on their own or strength or independent political career is still rare in our state. It is the first time in our political history that a woman is heading the state unit of a major political party in the person of A Sharda Devi and she will certainly have an agenda for encouraging more women into politics. Well, it is good and encouraging.
The question is, how many women candidates BJP is thinking of putting up in next assembly elections?
As the party aims for absolute majority on its own or 40 plus MLAs in the 2022 assembly elections, it has to think hard on the winning prospects of every intending candidate who is seeking the BJP ticket, and as things go the party is mainly banking on winnability of its ticket seeker rather than on terms of loyalty and the party faithful.
So, where does the idea of propping up more women candidates in the fray comes into the larger picture of the BJP gaining a majority on its own fit in? Of course, several women intending candidates have thrown their hats in the ring. But, it is the question of winnability which will decide the party ticket and not the promise of women empowerment in politics.