In Manipur, women outnumber men in the voters’ list. However, in sharp contrast, only 17 women out of the total of 265 candidates were nominated this time by various political parties. Though in their election manifesto and campaign, the parties highlight the empowerment of the women.
Women make up nearly 52 per cent of the total of over 20 lakh voters in the state but their representation inside the assembly or even in elections has been dismal. This year, only 6.42 per cent women candidates are there out of total of 265 contenders.
Punam Rani Wangkhem, a former Congress leader, is one of the 17 women candidates contesting. She is fighting on an NCP ticket and explains the difficulties faced by women.
“In our society, whether it’s fighting crime or even sorting our smaller issues, you will see women take lead but our politics is totally male dominated and they would not allow an outspoken woman to rise,” said Ms Wangkhem.
The Congress promises to give 33 per cent of all government jobs in the state to women and provide free transportation to them. The BJP has promised free scooties to meritorious college-going students in an effort to win women voters.
“If I’m employed, I’ll have money then I can buy all those things,” Naj Fundraimayum, a student said.
Imphal’s famous Ima Keithel or the Mother’s market is over 500 years old; it is run and managed entirely by as many as 5,000 women, making it Asia’s largest all-women market.
For two decades, Prabha Devi has been a vendor at this market and has seen it all.
“During Congress rule, there were a lot of bandh and blockages, fake encounters. Even in the bazaar, the Sanjit-Robina killing took place in front us…These untoward incidents have ceased during the BJP- led government. We women didn’t have to be vigil at night like before. In BJP regime, prices of commodities have really shot up. Fuel price has risen, LPG too. So has the auto fare. It is difficult to manage,” Prabha Devi told NDTV.
Covid lockdowns in past two years has hit these women vendors hard.
“Due to Covid, the market had been shut for a long time. It was really hard for us…of course the government helped by providing free rice and all but that was not enough,” said L Chandragini Devi, another woman vendor.
Manipur will vote in two phases – on February 28 and March 5 – as the elections are held for the 60-member state assembly. The counting of votes will take place on March 10.