By Kulsum Mustafa
The Congress Party not only took the lead in being the first political party to release the list of candidates for the forthcoming assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, but it also kept its promise of giving 40 percent seats to women candidates to contest. The first assembly list released this afternoon by the Uttar Pradesh incharge Priyanka Gandhi, includes 50 women candidates out of the total of 125 candidates. The list includes a journalist, actor, social activist, and old party members. This list is part of the Congress pre-poll strategy “ladki hu, lad sakhtee hun,” The party had made an announcement that it will set a new healthy trend in politics by ensuring that more women and youth participated in the country’s politics.
Terming this list as a historic initiative Priyanka said at today’s press conference that this will herald in ‘new politics’, she said that the list includes 40 percent dynamic youth also, and this spell new hope for the country.
She said the list comprises women who have been wronged by society but have bravely stood up for their rights. She said that by introducing a 40 percent quota for women, the Congress Party has ensured a level playing field for them and ensured that they get empowered to fight their own battles.
The other political parties however have not taken very kindly to this intrusion in the system. While the Samajwadi Party chief, Akhilesh Yadav, has put it off by saying that the party will use the winnability criteria for candidate selection rather than make the selection on the basis of gender.
The ruling BJP has been more harsh and critical of the announcement and labeled it a political gimmick.
“The thought is good, but the place chosen for the experiment is wrong,” said Shabnam Pandey, a senior BJP functionary. She saw this initiative as a ‘political gimmick”. Pandey was a member of Congress for 10 years before she switched to BJP six years back.
According to her, by this experiment in a state like Uttar Pradesh where the Congress has ‘noting to lose’ Congress just been poll smart.
She said it would have been a politically revolutionary step had Congress announced this in elections in the states where it rules. Incidentally, Congress is in six states out of the 31 and while in three it has its chief ministers in the other three it is in the alliance.
According to Ms Pandey, in the ten years, she was in Congress, she never saw women politicians in the party being given their due. In fact, there was no respect in the party except for the Gandhian ladies.
She said over the years the participation of women in politics has increased and so has their voting percentage. This according to Ms. Pandey has acted as a catalyst and forced parties to re-think their poll strategies and to include more women in their parties.