Subhash Singh, the husband, is an e-rickshaw driver. His wife Shobha Devi, 38, is a politician. He drives his wife around in their second-hand e-rickshaw, asking local voters for their support on April 23, when Delhi goes to polls to elect their representatives to the three municipalities.
She is not alone.
Two out of every five women contesting Delhi’s municipal election are ‘housewives.’ At least 454 homemakers will contest in the 272 municipal wards spread across the north, south and eastern municipal bodies.
Hindustan Times analysed the data of 1,127 women candidates compiled by the Association of Democratic Reforms. There are 1,239 women candidates this election -- nearly twice the number (679) in the 2012 polls.
An analysis of the professions in the affidavits shows ‘housewife’ as the most common vocation. Among the women, there are at least seven school principals, a black belt Taekwondo coach, over 70 teachers, a Reiki consultant, tea sellers, tailors, vegetable seller, a ‘yogacharya’ (a yoga expert)’ and wives of two Delhi police head constables.
Apart from homemakers, the next common profession (218 candidates) of women is either ‘self-employed’ or running their ‘own business.’
Half of the seats across Delhi are reserved for women.
Ranjana Kumari, director of Centre for Social Research, believes it is a positive sign that number of women candidates doubled.”
“The political aspirations of women have increased over the years. Not only in Delhi but across the country, we are seeing this in the Panchayat elections. Also, many men who use their wives as proxy candidates are truly accepting women as contests. More women should come forward and represent the voters,” Kumari said.
Who are these candidates?
Rekha, 27, a mother of seven, sells vegetables on a hand-pull cart near her house in northwest Delhi’s Mukundpur village. She is contesting on a CPI(M) ticket. “We are members of the Left party for the last three years. I am a local and have been selling vegetables all these years. People know me. I think I have a chance,” she said.
Rekha’s husband is a labourer at a leather factory in northwest Delhi. “Together we earn R 15,000 a month. We may not have the money or the resources but locals know me well here. We sell vegetables and interact with everyone. We do not have a tainted record and hope to win.”
Shubh Lata Awasti, a Tughlaqkabad resident, is an independent candidate who has promised to provide a safer neighbourhood for women. A black belt in Taekwondo, Awasti claims to have trained hundreds of school children in self-defence. “I am also a warden in civil defence with an experience of over 25 years in martial arts. With help of Delhi Police, I have taught self-defence to thousands of girls. My focus will be on safety of women.”
Awasti, an MBA degree from IIPM, was earlier a member of the Aam Aadmi Party but was shocked when the party did not give her a chance. “I will have to quit being a warden in civil defence if I win. The chances are high.”
Shobha Devi, 39, a homemaker, is the wife of e-rickshaw driver Subhash Singh. Devi who ran a tea shop till recently closed it and now sits behind her husband’s e-rickshaw, campaigning across Tughlaqabad village. They were earlier foot soldiers of the BJP but chose to contest solo, when the party did not give them a ticket.
“Locals urged us to contest the election. With a paltry earning, it would not have been possible of they had not helped us. The villagers contributed money and paid for the loudspeakers fixed on top of the rickshaw. After living here for 28 years, we see an opportunity. Everyone advised us to contest and are helping us with the finances.”
Outside Eros cinema in Jangpura, Kaushalya Devi,34, sells tea with her husband. The couple claimed they were earlier AAP volunteers, determined to rid the MCD of corrupt officers who sealed their tea shop multiples times and asked for bribes each time. Claiming to be disillusioned with the AAP, they joined the Nationalist Congress Party in December and got a ticket.
“I know how the MCD officers harass people. My shop has in the past been illegally sealed for months because I did not pay heed to their bribe demands. I may be a tea seller but I have a clean record and I too have a future. If Narendra Modi, who was a tea seller, could become the prime minister then surely we all have a chance,” she said.