There has been a marginal decline in the number of women candidates contesting Lok Sabha elections in Assam, with 14 in the fray as against 16 in the last polls. The Gauhati parliamentary constituency, which goes to polls in the third and final phase in the state on April 23, has the highest number five candidates — BJP’s Queen Oja, Bobbeeta Sharma of the Congress, Mamoni Sharma of Purvanchal Janata Party (Secular) and independents Junmoni Devi Khaund and Rubi Neog.
Two women had made it to the Lok Sabha in 2014 — BJP’s Bijoya Chakravorty from Gauhati and Sushmita Dev of Congress from Silchar.
Chakravorty with was denied ticket this time while Dev has been renominated from her constituency.
The Congress has put up two candidates, one less than in 2014, and the BJP and its alliance partner BPF one each.
All India Trinamool Congress and SUCI (Communist) have nominated two women candidates each while National Peoples’ Party (NPP), Voters Party International and Purvanchal Janata Party (Secular) have one candidate each. Four independents are also contesting.
Queen Oja said her party has given the Gauhati seat to women on several occasions and expressed gratefulness to the BJP leadership, particularly Prime Minister Narendra Modi for reposing faith in her.
The seat has been represented twice by sitting MP Chakraborty, who was a Union minister in Atal Behari Vajpayee’s cabinet.
Oja said her party’s manifesto promises 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and state assemblies and in the recently-concluded panchayat elections, many women from the party were elected.
“Prime Minister Modi has deep respect in the ability of women and this is evident from the fact that two key ministries – defence and external affairs – are led by women,” she told PTI.
Congress candidate from Gauhati, Sharma, said her party is committed to bring in 33 per cent reservation in Parliament and state assemblies as promised in its manifesto.
“Congress is a party which has always given more tickets to women than any other party in the state and even in the state assembly it has more women MLAs than any other party,” she said.
Silchar, Jorhat and Barpeta constituencies have two women candidates each while Dhubri, Mangaldoi and Kokrajhar(ST) have one woman candidate each.
In Silchar, those women National Peoples’ Party’s Nazia Yasmin Hazarika is contesting against Dev, in Jorhat Ribulya Gogoi of All India Trinamool Congress and independent Nandita Nag are in the fray while in Barpeta Chitralekha Das of SUCI(C) and Saniara Parbin of Voters International Party are contesting.
In Kokrajhar(ST), Assam Social Welfare Minister Pramila Rani Brahma of the BPF, SUCI’s Swarnalata Chaliha in Mangaldoi and independent Anamika Sarkar from Dhubri are also contesting in the polls.
Assam has so far sent only 17 women candidates to the Lok Sabha since the first General Elections in 1952. The highest number of 16 women candidates had contested in 2014.
In 2009, 11 women candidates contested the polls with only two winning while in 2004, four candidates were in fray but none managed to win.
In 1996 and 1999, nine candidates contested each of the polls with only one and two women winning the respective polls while in 1991, none of seven contesting candidates could manage to win.
There were no women candidates in 1980, 1984 and 1989 while in the first General Elections of 1952, none of the two contesting candidates won.
It was only in 1957 that both the contesting women candidates won the polls while in 1962, two of the three contesting candidates managed to make it to Parliament.
In 1967 and 1971, only one candidate could make it in each of the polls while in 1977, two women won the elections.
At the other end of the spectrum, however, there has been a remarkable increase in the participation of women voters’ in the polling process, registering a record 79.42 percent participation in 2014 as against 66.81 per cent in 2009 and 65.03 per cent in 2004.