Will Priyanka’s 40 Per Cent Formula for Women Candidates Really Work?

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Congress party will give 40% ticket to women in UP Vidhan Sabha elections, Thousands of women jumped on hearing this announcement.

Mamata and Jayalalithaa used to attract a relatively higher percentage of women votes when they were chief ministerial candidates. By that logic Congress will have to put up a woman as CM face

Soroor Ahmed | Clarion India

APPARENTLY, there is nothing wrong in fielding 40 per cent women candidates in any election. The announcement in this regard was made by Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi in UP a few days back. The moot question, however, is: Will such a move really work? One cannot say for sure whether it will give the desired result or not. It cannot be said now whether this will be an established policy of the Congress or just a one-time strategy for UP. In all, five states are going to poll early next year and two others at the end of 2022.

The idea of a certain percentage quota for women in ticket distribution should be understood in proper perspective with examples from the United States and West Bengal. When the Democratic Party’s Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, lost the election to Donald Trump in 2016, the party fielded a large number of women in the 2018 poll held for the 435-member House of Representatives (Lower House of the US Congress). The move clicked and the Democratic Party secured a majority in the House. As high as 42 per cent women got elected on the Democratic Party ticket. The actual number of women members in the House of Democratic Party was against only 17 of the Republican Party. This was the highest ever in US history. But the figure did not remain the same in the 2020 election for the House. This time, 88 Democrat and 13 Republican women got elected. The Democratic Party has 220 while the Republican Party has 212 members.

It needs to be mentioned that this time Joe Biden of the Democratic Party defeated Republican Donald Trump in the Presidential election. The idea of political empowerment of women has not a much larger number of takers even in the developed West. While in Scandinavian countries and Germany they form a much larger percentage, in many other countries of Europe as well as the United States and Canada normally their presence is not so encouraging. In almost two-and-a-half centuries the United States is yet to elect a woman President.

Another example is from West Bengal in India when in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll the Trinamool Congress gave tickets to 17 women out of 42. This was 41 per cent. Out of 17 candidates, nine won. The total number of TMC members who won was 22. Thus, once again 41 per cent of the party candidates who won were women.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha poll too one-third of the TMC MPs who got elected were women. But the TMC’s record for the state Assembly poll in West Bengal was not so encouraging. As the fight was much tougher this time the party fielded only 48 women candidates out of 288 which went to poll in summer of 2021. Thirty-three TMC women candidates won against seven of the Bharatiya Janata Party. With the victory of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee from Bhawanipore early this month the figure has increased to 34. Thus, there are only 41 women legislators in the House of 294.

Ironically, Mamata relied heavily on men candidates when the battle went tougher and when her own government’s survival was at stake. She can take the risk in the Lok Sabha poll but not in the state election. It needs to be mentioned that Mamata and Jayalalithaa used to attract a relatively higher percentage of women votes when they were chief ministerial candidates.

The Congress will have to take this fact into account. By that logic the party will have to put up a woman as CM face — Priyanka or anyone else. So far, the voting pattern of women in Nitish Kumar’s Bihar is concerned the case is not so as many half-baked studies suggest. Firstly, as far as the women voting pattern in the state is concerned it is slightly higher largely because of massive migration of male work-force.

Besides, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar cannot walk away with all the credit as he is running an alliance government with the much bigger party, BJP. It is the latter which has big resources to manage booths and bring voters. Nitish’s Janata Dal-United lacks this quality. So, the figure of Bihar can only be taken with a pinch of salt.

Nitish might have introduced the formula of 50 per cent quota for women in the local bodies’ election. But he did so in 2006 to dismantle the hold of the RJD at the grassroots level of democracy. He introduced 20 per cent reservation for the Extremely Backward Castes too with the same purpose. But so far fielding women candidates for the Assembly and parliamentary elections are concerned his party has always fared poorly.

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