Though women voters outnumber men in the electoral rolls in Manipur, only a small number of them have featured in the candidate lists of political parties in the upcoming state Assembly elections.
The total number of voters in the state is around 19 lakh and the number of women voters is much higher than that of men. Women play an important role in Manipuri society but the number of women candidates put up by the political parties is far less when compared to that of men, sources from Election Commission said.
The ruling Congress and the BJP which are the main contenders in the upcoming polls have fielded only two candidates each. The TMC which came out with a list 24 candidates also has two women candidates. Human rights activist Irom Sharmila's Peoples' Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA), contesting from three seats has fielded two women, including Sharmila herself.
The National People's Party (NPP) has fielded only one woman candidate out of their 21 total number of candidates. A senior Congress leader of Manipur state Congress unit said, "Actually we had only received applications from four women candidates. Only two were given tickets based on their ability to win the seats.
And secondly, in Manipur, women are not very much interested in politics." Keeping aside their ideological and political differences, the views of Congress were echoed by BJP state unit on this issue. "We had given tickets based on the winning ability of candidates. And women are not very much interested in politics," a senior state BJP leader said.
But PRJA and TMC had different views on why a small number of women found place in candidate list. "Out of three candidates that we had fielded two are women. This shows our commitment towards women empowerment. But the candidate list of big parties like BJP and Congress show that they are not at all interested in women politics. Shame on them," Erendro Leichonbam of PRJA said.
The TMC on the other hand blamed politics of violence and intimidation as the main reason behind the party not fielding women candidates. "We wanted to field more women candidates. But we couldn't as there is a reign of terror and women are afraid to come out," TMC's leader in-charge of Manipur elections Samrat Tapadar told PTI.
In the outgoing state assembly, there are only three women MLAs and one of them is a minister in the state ministry. Polling for the 60 seat Manipur Assembly will take place in two phases on March 4 and March 8 and the results will be declared on March 11.