4 of 8 candidates in rural constituency are women
Vikramdeep Johal, Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, 28 January 2017. Punjab’s electoral politics remains primarily a male preserve. Barely 7 per cent of the candidates contesting the February 4 Assembly elections are women (in the 2012 polls, the figure was around 9 per cent).
Ghanaur, however, has gone against the grain. Four of the eight contestants in this rural constituency of Patiala district are female. Its number of women candidates is also the highest this time for any segment in the state.
In the fray are sitting Akali MLA Harpreet Kaur Mukhmailpur (57), AAP candidate Anu Randhawa (35), and Independents Anoopinder Kaur Sandhu (52) and Surinder Kaur (58). All of them are fairly well educated. Anoopinder holds MA (English) and MPhil degrees, while Anu has completed Master’s in Public Administration.
Surinder has done BA, while Harpreet has mentioned her highest qualification as “BA-I”. In stark contrast, the leading male candidate, ex-MLA Madan Lal Jalalpur (Congress), is not even a matriculate.
Three of these women belong to politically influential families. Harpreet’s husband Ajaib Singh Mukhmailpur won the seat in 1997 and served as a minister in the Akali-BJP government.
Anu is the daughter of late Congress leader and two-time local MLA Jasjit Singh Randhawa, while Anoopinder is the wife of Akali leader Tejinderpal Singh Sandhu (her in-laws represented the constituency in the late 1970s and 1980s).
On the poor representation of the fair sex in the elections, Anu says, “Labelled as homemakers, women are usually not encouraged to enter the rough and tumble of politics. Lack of opportunities often stifles their aspirations. Various parties need to do much more to tap their leadership abilities.”
The AAP candidate admits that she was initially reluctant to contest. “It’s my supporters who motivated me to take forward the commendable work done by my father in Ghanaur and rid the place of Akali misrule,” she says. Anu had switched over to AAP after the Congress zeroed in on Jalalpur as the party candidate.
Surinder, a resident of Harpalpur village in Rajpura tehsil, wants to pitch in for women’s empowerment. “I never married because I didn’t want to be shackled by domesticity.
I have been helping needy girls and women in my village so that they are able to fight discrimination on their own,” says the first-timer, asserting that she is contesting as an Independent because no party can be trusted.