Women are among the most-used baits for seeking votes, but when it comes to pitching them as candidates, all political parties develop cold feet. At least, that’s what the numbers scream. Of the total 1,828 candidates in fray this Assembly election, only 126, or 6.8 per cent, are women. Of these, 12 are from BJP, 10 from Congress and the rest are either from other parties or are independents.

The apparent reason for such low number of women is their ‘winnability’ factor, perceived to be quite low. Of 977 candidates in phase one, 58 were females, while phase two has 68 women among total 851candidates.

Sources claim that factors like groupism, bias and casteism work against women.

Congress’s Vignatri Patel, chairperson of Anand District Panchayat Building Committee who has won district panchayat polls a few times from Petlad, said, “Most women lack financial might and political background. Also, the society is reluctant to accept a strong woman candidate.”

Besides Congress and BJP, others who have fielded women are BSP, AAP, NCP, All India Hindustan Congress, Navin Bharat Nirman Manch, JD(U), Yuva Sarkar, Gujarat Jan Chetna Party and Bahujan Mukti Party.

Sources in Congress say that women had sought tickets were sidelined in support of either sitting MLAs or other Patidar candidates.

“Many a time, female candidates are ignored when there is very close fight between parties. This is because their ‘winnability’ is perceived to be low. The women also have to compete with candidates who have more resources or money. Reservation seems to be the only solution to bring equal footing in polls,” said Sonal Patel Datta, president of Gujarat Pradesh Mahila Congress.

Some of the prominent BJP faces this time include Maltiben Maheshwari, Dr Nimaben Acharya, Sangeeta Patil, Vibhavariben Dave, Manishaben Vakil and Gitaba Jadeja, while Congress has fielded Bhavnaben Patel, Nitaben Rathod and Santok Arethiya on prominent seats.

Former education, women and child welfare minister in Anandiben Patel Cabinet, Vasuben Trivedi, who was dropped by BJP this time, says, “There were only 97 women among the total 1,666 candidates in 2012. Of these, 16 won while 64 forfeited their deposits. Incidentally, the Assembly constituency that recorded the highest margin victory in that election was Ghatlodia from where Gujarat’s first female CM, Anandiben Patel, won by avictory margin of 1,10,395.”

As per gender analysis of candidates done by NGOs Gujarat Election Watch and ADR (Association for Democratic Reforms), even in 2012, of the total 1,815 candidates, women candidates comprised just around 4%.

No place in posters either

This election, neither Congress nor BJP has a woman face on its posters. Until now, BJP had a strong woman leader in Anandiben Patel, but with she out of poll race, the party is left with no option.

Congress, too, has failed to find a woman leader whom it can project as its face. To this, Priyanka Chaturvedi said, “Our women work a lot here, but only a few are recognised. I believe Women’s Reservation Bill to reserve 33% of all seats in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies should be passed. It will increase the number of women entering politics.”

Jyoti Pandya, BJP Mahila Morcha president, BJP said, “Many women like Vibhavari Dave, Darshana Jardosh and Ranjan Bhatt work at local level. But they have failed to become the party’s face across State due to many reasons.”

Sociologist Gaurang Jani said, “Women suffer a lot of injustice in both parties. Very few have been given tickets.” He pointed out that the number of first-time female voters was just 600 against 1,000 males, a reflection of high abortion rate of girl child. “Indifference against women is highlighted by Anandiben’s removal mid-way from the position of CM,” he added.

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