Calling out to womenfolk From a position of strength
Reaching out to the women and perhaps State BJP president A Sharda Devi could not have chosen a more appropriate time. Herself a woman, who has been pitchforked to head the State unit of the saffron party, during a time as crucial as this-with Assembly election just round the corner-and perhaps the timing is just right to reach out to the womenfolk, who are otherwise very active during election time. Go to any Assembly Constituency and it is not an uncommon sight to see the election camp of any intending candidate teeming with womenfolk. Take a look at any of the group on door to door campaigning in any of the Assembly Constituencies and here again it is womenfolk who dominate the crowd. However take a look at the 60 member Assembly in Manipur, the composition of the Ministry and more than often it will be a case of the exception when women are indeed elected or when they are included in the Council of Ministers. Manipur has seen women Ministers, but the land which gave the Meira Paibi movement to the world, etched Manipur on the map of protest against excesses of the security personnel under the immunity granted by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, with their now ‘historic’ nude protest in front of Kangla back in 2004, the land which gave Irom Sharmila to the consciousness of the world with her 16 years long fast against the continued imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, is yet to see a woman Chief Minister. Forget a woman as a Chief Minister, but their representation in the Assembly has always been poor and this was what prompted Sharda Devi to urge all womenfolk for greater participation in politics. The call was to womenfolk, but men too should come to the undeniable fact that there is a pressing need for women to step out of the confines of their homes and have a greater say in decision making process and participating in politics is one way of going about it.
It is precisely to give women more room in the decision making process that a Bill was passed in Parliament on November 24, 2009 which kept 50 percent of the seats reserved for women in Urban Local Bodies such as Municipalities. However it should be more than obvious that reserving seats for women is alone not enough and this is where women would need to step out and seek to participate in politics. When A Sharda called out to the womenfolk of Manipur to participate more in politics, she was doing so from a position of strength. A position of strength in the sense that in the 78 member strong Union Council of Ministers, there are 11 women Ministers in the Modi Government at New Delhi. Top this off with the fact that this is the highest number of women Ministers in the Union Government in the last 17 years and this says something profound. Eleven women in a 78 member strong Ministry and this works out to about 14 percent. Not high or a healthy representation of women in the Ministry but at least one can see the extra mile that has been covered to include women in the Union Council of Ministers and one may interpret the call of A Sharda Devi in the backdrop of this figure. Here it is crucial for women to translate their active participation in the election process to something more meaningful so that they can indeed make a mark in politics and this is what should be read into the exhortation of the State BJP president. A Sharda Devi is there, active in politics, and she is perhaps the model for the other women to look up to, if they are interested in taking a more proactive role in politics.