Of the nearly 1,300 female candidates who will be contesting the BMC elections, most aspirants have not studied beyond the SSC/HSC level; only a handful of contestants have degrees on their resumes.
The one distinction that sets apart the BMC Elections 2012, now three days away, from those in the corporation's history is the 50 per cent quota for women corporators. That is, of the 227 civic wards, 114 will be won and run by women candidates, the rationale being empowerment and equality of opportunity for women.
The idealism notwithstanding, critics claim that most of the aspirants are really only stooges for their politically ensconced kin, and raise questions about their ability and qualifications to understand and deal with civic issues. The concern arises because women candidates, who could walk away with as many as 130-135 seats, will have a vast influence on city matters. And while they will dominate a majority of the corporation, only a 100 of the 1,300 candidates are even graduates.
In the light of the dismal records, critics have their reservations about whether the candidates will deliver.
According to records, of the 2,233 candidates, nearly 1,300 are women. Of these, around 110 have studied until graduation and beyond, and while a majority of them have completed their Bachelor's in Arts, Science or Commerce, a few are doctors and advocates.
Most of the remaining 1,200 candidates have not completed their secondary and higher secondary studies. Amongst those who have cleared higher secondary certificate (HSC) exams include sitting corporators Geeta Gawli and Shraddha Jadhav. A large percentage of the rest have not studied until Standard X. Sitting corporators like Vandana Gawli, Aparna Narvekar, Vidya Thakur do not have a senior secondary certificate (SSC).
One of the Accomplished few: Former mayor Shubha Raul is an
Ayurvedic medic. File pic
Politics of proxy
Said James John from Action for good Governance and Networking in India, "These are all proxy candidates who are contesting the elections. The basic question is whether they would understand on what basis the budget or some other project is cleared, how it would affect people living in their wards. These women are nothing but benami shares of their family members who are the back room boys."
Others like sociologist Nandini Sardesai worry that in a bid to fill in the seats, candidates from other wards are being called in and they would not be able to grasp local issues (see box). Of the more accomplished candidates, Dr Ashwini Pandhare and Advocate Kurtulen Ghanchi would be contesting from ward number 222; Dr Sujata Patil from ward 169; a diploma holder in Bachelor of Fine Arts (Applied) Rajshree Shirnadkar from ward 167.
Some of them have completed their Master's and Bachelor's in Education. These include Tara Malvankar from ward no 174 and Pratibha Bhishwas from 171. Taruna Kumbhar from ward no 177 is the only candidate who has studied political science. A few others are skin specialists, ayurvedic and homeopathy doctors.
List of sitting corporators, Their posts and qualifications
Shraddha Jadhav: HSC; mayor
Rajul Patel: HSC; chairperson of health committee
Rukmini Kharatmol: SSC; chairperson of the education committee
Shubha Raul: Post-graduate; former mayor
Geeta Gawli: SSC
Meena Desai: Graduate
Shailja Girkar: SSC
Waqarunnisa Zahid Husain Ansari: SSC; member of standing committee
Vandana Gawli: Below SSC level
Vidya Thakur: Below SSC level; member of standing committee
Geeta Yadav: Graduate; public health committee, BEST committee
She became the 30th Chief Minister of Bihar on March 11, 2000 after her husband Lalu Prasad was imprisoned. She held the post two more times. After joining politics, she has held many portfolios like cabinet secretariat and coordination, home, finance, personnel and administrative reform etc.
However, when she got married to Lalu at the age of 14, she stopped going to school and has not completed her high school studies. Her appointment came amid severe criticism and stiff opposition because she was nearly illiterate and had little experience or interest in politics.
In 1996, dacoit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi contested the 11th Lok Sabha elections from Mirzapur in UP as a SP candidate and was elected. She was re-elected to the 13th Lok Sabha in 1999. During her career as an MP, she halted a train at an unscheduled stop. Then railway minister, Ram Vilas Paswan, only ordered a nominal enquiry. Once, she visited the Gwalior jail (where she had been imprisoned) to meet her former fellow inmates.
Since she did not arrive during visiting hours, jail authorities did not allow her in. This infuriated her and she abused them. Later, a suspension order was issued against the officials, without any explanation.
Party & percentage of Women Candidates
Incidentally, the party that has awarded the highest number of tickets to women candidates is the NCP: women make up for 60 per cent of its total candidates. Coming a close second is the Shiv Sena with 58 per cent.
The BJP and the MNS each gave 49 per cent of their tickets to women.
The Samajwadi Party too has given away 47 per cent of its tickets to female candidates. Bringing up the rear is the Congress, which has allotted 44 per cent of its tickets to women.
Adman Pritish Nandy
I believe women corporators are the proxy candidates for their husbands, fathers, etc. But I also believe that this would change in their future as the young generation who is entering the voter's list vote beyond any gender biases. Women voters have increased and they would bring about the change by choosing the right candidate.
Professor Nandini Sardesai
Our ward in Colaba is now reserved for an OBC woman and the candidates have not even cleared SSC. One party couldn't find an OBC candidate here, so it called upon a woman from Masjid Bandar. How would she know about our problems? How would such candidates represent us? Education is important.
Writer Jerry Pinto
I do not know whether education is such an important qualification for a politician. I have not gone through any study that says a politician should be educated and only then they can serve their country better. This is a bias on the part of the educated class of citizens, which I don't agree to.
Thespian Rahul DaCunha
Frankly, I don't care how educated they are. There are quite a number of ministers who are educated and are corrupt. I just want someone who cares about the city to represent us. People who would work hard to make the city a better place should be there in power, even if they don't come from an educated background.