FOCUS POLLS BIHAR
KS Shankar / IHN-NN
PATNA/NEW DELHI: During the electioneering in the 2005 Bihar assembly polls, Chief Minister Ntiesh Kumar was asked by women voters to ban liquor sale and implement total prohibition in the state. In July 2015, while campaigning for the upcoming state elections that year, Nitish Kumar told women at an event that he would impose a liquor ban if he was returned to power.
In keeping with his promise, the state government introduced a complete ban on the manufacture, sale, transport and consumption of alcohol by enacting the Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act and the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, in April and October 2016, respectively.
Following this, Nitish Kumar also introduced a reservation quota for women in state-government jobs and a scheme to give free bicycles to schoolgirls. The measures were widely perceived as landmark moves to bring gender equality to rural Bihar.
The chief minister eyes women as a consolidated vote bank. To deepen his connect with women voters, his party, the JDU, has fielded 22 woman candidates so far for the three-phase assembly elections set for October 28, November 3 and November 7. This is the highest number of women candidates fielded by any political party in the Bihar assembly election.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has named 13 women candidates in the list of108 it has announced so far, The saffron party is fighting in an alliance with Kumar’s Janata Dal (United).
On the other hand, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and continues to support the BJP at the Centre but is going it alone in the state polls, has named nine women. Chief of LJP founder Ram Vilas Paswan passed away at private Delhi hospital on October 8.Chirag Paswan, son of Paswan, was passed on the baton of the LJP.
The Congress has named seven women out of 70 candidates and its ally, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of former Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, 17 women in a total of 144.
Women turnout in both the 2015 assembly elections and 2019 Lok Sabha polls were 60.48 per cent and 59.58 per cent respectively as compared to turnout of male voters in these two elections — 53.32 and 57.33 per cent respectively.
Notably, for the first phase of polls on October 28. more than 1,000 candidates are in the fray after scrutiny and withdrawals. Of these, 113 are women candidates
Bihar is yet to see a woman chief minister with an independent stand unlike in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. RJD leader Rabri Devi was not in politics when she was was brought in as chief minister by her beleaguered husband Lalu Prasad after he was forced to resign in 1977 over the fodder scam case. He held the reins from behind her.
This time around, some woman candidates are charting out their own political territories in Bihar election. Pushpam Priya Choudhary is one. She is the daughter of former JDU MLC Vinod Chaudhary. She did her schooling from Darbhanga before moving to London. On her return, she floated her own Plurals party. She is contesting Bihar Assembly election from Bisfi in Madhubani and Bankipur in Patna and declared herself as the chief ministerial candidate of her party. She has put up full-page advertisements in several newspapers, announcing her CM-plans.
BJP has fielded Shreyasi Singh, a Commonwealth Games gold medalist in shooting, from Jamui assembly constituency. The daughter of former Union Minister late Digvijay Singh, Shreyasi hails from Gidhaur in Bihar’s Jamui district. She competed in the double trap event and managed to bag gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. In 2014, Shreyasi had won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games held in Scotland. She was also part of the Indian team that competed at the 2013 Trap Shooting World Cup in Mexico. She was also awarded the Arjuna Award for shooting in 2018.
Another woman candidate being talked about in Bihar is Anjum Ara, contesting from Dumraon in Buxar district. She has replaced Dadan Singh Pehalwan, the sitting JDU MLA, a muscleman politician who was denied a ticket this time by the JDU. Anjum Ara is the JDU spokesperson.
Another young woman candidate in the fray is Sushumalata Kushwaha. She is contesting as JDU candidate from Jagdishpur seat in Bhojpur district.
The number of women getting elected to the Bihar Assembly has been fluctuating. In the February 2005 Bihar elections, only three woman candidates could win the state polls. Their number significantly improved to 25 in October-November 2005, when Bihar election was held afresh.
After the first full-term of the Nitish Kumar government, when Assembly election was held in 2010, 34 women got elected. Five years later, their number was reduced to 28 in the 243-member assembly. –IHN-NN
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