• Women and the changing face of local governments

    Mukta Jagtap wakes up early in the morning, at five. By the time she prepares her two daughters for school and finishes household work, it is nine, in other words, the time to start her campaign. Mukta is one of the 1090 candidates contesting elections for the 162 seats in the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). Gazal Shekhawat reports on the changing face of local governments.

    As a housewife, I was afraid at the beginning.  But now that I’ve stepped into politics I am realising certain things, for example, because my husband and I have been active in our community, I realised that I was already helping women to begin with.

    The morning is only the start for Mukta, who campaigns till ten in the night with a two hour break in the middle. Like others who hope to be elected, she goes door to door, meets families personally to discuss about their problems and tells them about her campaign. This wasn’t always the case, Mukta had already contributed to her husband’s campaign for a month when it was declared that their ward is reserved for women and their party, the BJP, gave the ticket to her.

    “As a housewife, I was afraid at the beginning.  But now that I’ve stepped into politics I am realising certain things, for example, because my husband and I have been active in our community, I realised that I was already helping women to begin with. Now if I get elected, it will be easier to serve them” she says.

    In a nation where the number of women MPs in the Lok Sabha is just about 12%, most local bodies reserve at least 33% seats for women. In the case of the PMC, a 2012 legislation by the state government increased the quota to 50%. Despite the efforts, parties have had trouble fielding women candidates and the number of male applicants has outnumbered the number women when it comes to applying for candidacy. Pune has seen a trend of ‘couple candidates’ whereas the present mayor of the city, Prashant Jagtap is now campaigning with his mother, who also holds a ticket from the NCP.

    Mubina Ahmed Khan comes from a party which is relatively new in Pune. The All India Majlis e Ittehadul Muslimeen  or the MIM is has 25 candidates who will be contesting the election. Mubina’s mother was a member of the Tiranga Mahila Mandal and her husband, who is involved in social work, inspired her to step in the elections. “I believe that women have a better understanding, so we can serve each other better. We are loyal to causes we believe in and this is how a nation can progress through them” she says.

    Forty nine year old Kalpana Thorve has a lot experience in politics; she has been a member of the PMC since the 2012 elections. “After I was elected, women in my area stay bindass (carefree) instead of living under the pressure.” says Kalpana.  She started working for the Shivsena in 1992 and was promoted to the post of shakha pramukh and later, zilla pramukh. Her husband, who is an advocate and her sister in law both contribute to her campaign.

    After I was elected, women in my area stay bindass (carefree) instead of living under the pressure says Kalpana

    Admittedly, men often exercise control through seats reserved for women and the three candidates come from political parties which often hold opposing views. Yet, what unites them is the optimism they carry when it comes to women.

     Gazal is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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