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Poor representation of women on candidate lists of Manipur parties

Fight against AFSPA:Sharmila says she has changed her strategy

Imphal: Though women voters outnumber men in the electoral rolls in Manipur, only a small number of them have featured in the candidate lists of political parties in the upcoming state Assembly elections here. The total number of voters in the state is around 19 lakh and the number of women voters is much higher than that of men.
Women play an important role in Manipuri society but the number of women candidates put up by the political parties is far less when compared to that of men, sources from Election Commission said. The ruling Congress and the BJP which are the main contenders in the upcoming polls have fielded only two candidates each. The TMC which came out with a list 24 candidates also has two women candidates. Human rights activist Irom Sharmila’s Peoples’ Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA), contesting from three seats has fielded two women, including Sharmila herself.
The National People’s Party (NPP) has fielded only one woman candidate out of their 21 total number of candidates. A senior Congress leader of Manipur state Congress unit said, “Actually we had only received applications from four women candidates. Only two were given tickets based on their ability to win the seats. And secondly, in Manipur, women are not very much interested in politics.”
Keeping aside their ideological and political differences, the views of Congress were echoed by BJP state unit on this issue. “We had given tickets based on the winning ability of candidates. And women are not very much interested in politics,” a senior state BJP leader said.
Meanwhile, activist Irom Sharmila, who is making her electoral debut in the Manipur polls, on Sunday said she has not given up her fight against controversial law AFSPA but only changed her strategy. Sharmila said a section of people even wanted her “martyrdom” during the 16-year-old fast against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that she decided to end last year. The activist went on to form her own party – Peoples Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA) and has decided to fight the March assembly elections with the sole agenda of withdrawal of the Act from Manipur. “Even if one of us win, we will be the voice of the people inside the assembly and will question AFSPA on the floor of the House,” she told PTI to questions on why her party PRJA had fielded only three candidates and whether they could play an important role in the 60-member Assembly if they win.
Sharmila is contesting the Thoubal seat against Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and BJP’s L Bashanta Singh. On what would she do if PRJA fails to taste success in the polls, she said, “Even if we fail, we will continue our fight. We will stay in politics and fight the next parliamentary elections.” During the interview Sharmila said, “AFSPA has never been an issue in the polls. But I want to make a point in the elections that AFSPA is not only a draconian law but also one which is a gross violation of human rights. (PTI)

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