Equal seats, unequal say

The parliament has reserved 50 per cent of seats in local and civic bodies for women; but ironically, women remain absent in party meetings held to discuss seat-sharing

When the Central and state governments decided to constitutionally grant 50 per cent reservation to women in local and civic bodies, they had probably expected to increase female participation in matters of legislation. But going by the fact that meetings to discuss the equal seat-sharing across different political parties have been recording almost no female presence, women in political circles have a long and arduous path to tread, before they have an equal say.

At the joint-committee meeting held by the Congress and NCP, one had to look hard and long to catch a glimpse of cabinet minister Varsha Gaikwad, the only woman present. The party heavyweights, all of them male, were found vociferously discussing the issue.

The sight of women was  equally elusive at the Shiv Sena-BJP-RPI bastion. Sena  leader  Uddhav Thackeray, BJP honcho Gopinath Munde, state BJP chief Sudhir Mungantiwar and bigwig Ramdas Athawale were seen thrashing out the matter of female representation.

With only 40 days to go for the BMC polls, discussions on seat-sharing and party tickets are the order of the day, but ironically, the voice of the female corporators remain inaudible, and at best muffled.

A Shiv Sena corporator replied defensively, saying,  "There have been instances when our suggestions have been sought at a higher level. It is all about the strength of the candidates, their planning in the wards where their candidature is being considered. There are very few female corporators who plan before the elections." She further alleged that women are usually embroiled in their machinations to acquire tickets.

Sena corporator Rajul Patel, gave a politically correct response: "We know many female party workers and have been keeping a track of their work. Their names would be referred to the senior leaders. It's not true that the senior leaders do not seek our opinions. We do attend the meetings."

A Congress corporator said that many female corporators don't bother to attend the general body meetings. "Very few women are active in the corporation. It is for the senior leaders to decide if they should be part of the committees." She added gloomily that with the 50 per cent mandatory reservation, women who weren't quite aware of the workings of the civic body would now dominate the corporation. Congress corporator Jyotsna Dighe said, "We have been training women at the ward level, and will be referring them to our MPs and MLAs. It is their call who to award tickets to."

BJP corporator Vidya Thakur fiercely denied the suggestion, saying, "Though decisions are taken by the core committees, suggestions from corporators can always be

Woman power?
Number of wards: 227
Reserved for women: 114
Open category: 77

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