By Sujit Chakraborty
Guwahati, May 4 (IANS) The number of women legislators in the 126-member Assam Assembly has been declining from a high of 14 in 2011, eight in 2016 and only six this time.
In all 74 women candidates (7.8 per cent) among the total of 946 aspirants contested the recently held three-phase Assam Assembly elections and only six of them entered into the Assembly — three are of the ruling BJP, one of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and two of opposition Congress.
In the previous Assam Assembly elections in 2016, 91 women candidates were in the fray with eight of them elected to the 126-member House while in 2011, 85 women had tried their electoral fate and 14, highest so far in the House, secured the success.
According to the Election Commission’s data, 7.82 per cent women candidates of the total 946 candidates fought the electoral battle but 4.76 per cent female lawmakers would represent the state in the 126-member House.
Four-time MLA and former Congress minister Ajanta Neog, 57, who weeks before the election joined the BJP, retained her Golaghat seat defeating her nearest opponent Bitupan Saikia of Congress by a margin of 9,325 votes.
Neog is the widow of former Congress leader Nagen Neog who was killed along with eight others by the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom in 1996.
BJP candidate Suman Haripriya, 52, daughter of former Union Minister and BJP MP Bijaya Chakraborty, re-elected from Hajo beating Dulu Ahmed of Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) by a margin of 14,368 votes.
Another BJP nominee Nandita Garlosa, 43, in her maiden electoral fight won from Haflong (ST) defeating Congress candidate Nirmal Langthasa by a margin of 18,598 votes.
BJP’s ally AGP’s Renupama Rajkhowa, 66, won from Teok seat by defeating another woman candidate Pallabi Gogoi of Congress by a margin of 1,350 votes.
Congress candidates Nandita Das, 51,elected to the assembly from Boko (SC) seat while her party colleague and newcomer Sibamoni Bora, 60, daughter of former legislator Kiran Bora and daughter-in-law of former Chief Minister Golap Borbora, won the prestigious Batadroba seat.
Das trounced AGP candidate Jyoti Prasad Das while Bora defeated actor-turned-politician Angoorlata Deka by a margin of 52, 466 votes and 32,820 votes respectively.
In a major setback, Assam’s longest-serving woman legislator Pramila Rani Brahma of the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) lost the Kokrajhar East seat by 20,095 votes.
The 71-year-old, tribal woman leader was defeated by BJP’s new ally United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) candidate Lawrence Islary, 44.Brahma, who was minister both in BJP government headed by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Congress Government led by former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, had first won the Kokrajhar East seat in Western Assam in 1991.
The Opposition Congress, which had formed a 10-party ‘Mahajot’ (Grand Alliance) to fight the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led alliance, had put up nine women candidates in the polls.
Its electoral partners, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF), have fielded one women candidate each.
In the 2016 polls, the Congress had fielded 16 women candidates.
The ruling BJP has nominated seven women candidates, one more than that during the 2016 polls, while its alliance partner AGP like that of previous elections has put up two female nominees.Besides, several female activists and women rights bodies, renowned Assam-based writers Tapati Baruah Kashyap and Ratna Bharali Talukdar have expressed strong resentment over the less number of women candidates and fewer numbers of elected legislators.
Kashyap, a renowned Guwahati-based award-winning writer and an advocate of women’s rights, said women have the capability to govern the society but they are not properly represented in politics and governance.
“Because ours is a patriarchal society, men continue to dominate in every sphere of the society and government. This can be termed as neglect of women and the failure to recognise their ability. There are numerous instances where women have performed better than men in many areas, including education,” she told IANS.
Kashyap, who has written 12 books and won several prestigious awards, said because of the prevailing male-dominated mindset, even policies on women were prepared by men. Meanwhile, Talukdar, a famed writer and executive editor of online magazine Nezine, said that women have always been in the forefront in Assam, be it the identity movements or political mobilisations including election rallies.
“Ironically, the women continue to be deprived of getting proportionate representations in the state Assembly. Women have demonstrated their efficiency and expertise in governance in panchayat bodies where 50 per cent seats are reserved for them. They have also demonstrated their efficiency as ministers and legislators,” Talukdar told IANS.
She said that a minimum of 33 per cent seats of the state Assemblies must be reserved for women.”Patriarchal mindset of leaders of political parties is posing hurdles in women getting adequate representation in the state Assembly.”
By Sujit Chakraborty