Along with loan waivers, job guarantees, universal basic income among others, women empowerment seems to have found a place on political parties' agenda for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
The recent announcements by political parties indicate that women reservation is one of the subjects setting the tone for what is said to be one of the most unpredictable elections. In less than five days, three political parties have made announcements focusing on women reservation.
On March 10, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik said the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) would field 33 percent women among its candidates in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, terming the move a “benchmark for women’s empowerment” in the country.
“If India is to lead the world if India has to compete with countries like America and China and become an advanced nation, women’s empowerment is the only answer,” he said.
Just a day after Patnaik's announcement, his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee declared 40 percent seats for women candidates. In 2014, Trinamool Congress had reserved 34 percent seats for women.
“I am happy. While other parties are talking about 33% reservation for women, Trinamool has implemented and raised the bar higher. Today, we are declaring 40 percent women candidates,” said the CM.
What next? In no time, Congress president Rahul Gandhi announced that if his party comes to power it will reserve 33 per cent of all government jobs at the national level for women.
In the first such poll promise for women, Gandhi said there were not many women in leadership position. "One of the things that we have decided that in 2019 we are going to pass the women's reservation bill in Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabhas and we are also going to reserve 33 per cent of all government jobs at the national level for women," the Congress chief said.
Currently, the Lok Sabha has only 65 women MPs, about 12 percent of the total 545 members. Interestingly, the parties' efforts come a decade after a constitutional amendment guaranteeing 33 percent reservation for women in the lower house and state assemblies was stalled.
The elections for the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies will be held in seven phases between April 11 and May 19 and the counting of polls will take place on May 23.
(With inputs from PTI)