The BJP-led NDA in Bihar – which has been accusing the opposition of stalling a bill envisaging 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies – has resorted to tokenism when it came to distribution of tickets to women in the general election.
According to the list released by the NDA on March 23, only three women candidates have been allotted Lok Sabha tickets in the state – one each by alliance partners the BJP, JD(U) and the LJP.
The opposition Grand Alliance – comprising the RJD, Congress, RLSP, HAM (S) and former Bollywood set designer Mukesh Sahni’s VIP – has so far named just nine candidates for the polls.
Election to the 40 Lok Sabha seats will be held in seven phases in Bihar between April 11 and May 19.
The ruling Janata Dal (United) has fielded Kavita Singh from Siwan constituency, while the Bharatiya Janata Party has nominated Rama Devi from the Sheohar seat.
Veena Singh of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) is contesting the election from the Vaishali constituency.
In 2014, too, the NDA had given three tickets to women, two by the BJP and one by the LJP, while the JD(U) which was then not part of the BJP-led coalition, allotted two seats for women.
The BJP had contested 30 Lok Sabha seats in the state in the last general election, while the JD(U) fielded candidates in all but two seats.
As per the seat-sharing arrangement in the NDA this time, both the BJP and the JD(U) are contesting 17 seats each, leaving six constituencies to the LJP.
The parties, in their defence, claimed that women did not get adequate representation in their list of candidates as they were contesting fewer seats this time.
Devesh Kumar, the state unit vice-president of the BJP, contended that the party believes in “empowering women”, but the seat-sharing arrangement in the state did not leave them with much of an option.
“Yes, it is important that women should be given more tickets in elections, but since we are contesting fewer seats this time as compared to the last time, we had to take many factors into consideration.
“The BJP government at the Centre believes in empowering women. One can clearly see that women are holding important portfolios at the Centre – External Affairs (Sushma Swaraj) and Defence (Nirmala Sitharaman). Our Lok Sabha Speaker (Sumitra Mahajan) is a woman,” he pointed out.
Echoing similar sentiments, JD(U) spokesperson and MLC Niraj Kumar said, “It was difficult for the party to accommodate more women this time as it was contesting just 17 seats in the state.”
The JD(U) spokesperson also listed the decisions taken by the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar in the interest of women, such as 50 per cent reservation in urban local bodies and panchayati raj institutions and 35 per cent reservation in all government jobs.
“Our party has been a strong votary of women’s reservation bill. If the bill is passed, it would become mandatory for parties to give women tickets,” he added.
Two regional parties have shown a way out of chronic tokenism in their distribution of tickets to women this time.
In West Bengal, the ruling Trinamool Congress has fielded 41 per cent women candidates for the general election, which the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha has reserved 33 per cent of its tickets for women.