Shakti, a non-partisan collective to enable more women in politics, recently carried out a ‘Call Women MLAs’ campaign. As the name suggests, volunteers, Shakti members and various others, called women MLAs across India demanding that more 50% tickets in their parties be given to women for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
On Monday, 500 people including farmers, women in corporations, students, women in IT, social services workers in child trafficking, women in media, doctors, trainers, researchers, civil society activists etc. called 339 women MLAs, of which 109 answered the calls. 101 of these MLAs said that they believe that many more women candidates should be given MP tickets for this Lok Sabha election by their own parties.
“Most promised to raise it with their party leaders. More numbers are still flowing in from volunteer callers across the country. Many women MLAs believed that 50% candidates should be women in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Many were openly appreciative of Shakti's campaign and mentioned that women themselves do not demand tickets and that needs to change. Some mentioned that while they support it, it is up to their parties to take the final call. Many MLAs were called by multiple callers; 230 women MLAs did not pick up or were unreachable,” a media release by Shakti said. Some of the latter called back as well.
Tara Krishnaswamy, the co-founder of Shakti, said, “This is a landmark India wide effort for women's political rights with a simultaneous call out to 109 female elected representatives within just 2.5 hours. These 101 women MLAs represent voices of a whopping 30+crore voters of India saying India needs many more women in Parliament (3 lakhs voters per assembly constituency.”
“Many women MLAs said that eligible female candidates are denied tickets even to tune of 2 of every 10 seats contested! We, at Shakti, hope that these 101 MLAs will discuss this with their party leadership and convey that the public sentiment is vociferously for more women MPs. Shakti will continue to ramp up the campaign for women's political representation until political justice is done,” she added.
Jothilakshmi, Shakti’s coordinator in Tamil Nadu and an activist with Voice of People, called the exercise a great experience in participatory democracy and added, “We are not begging for kindness from parties through these calls. We are claiming what is rightfully ours and seeking to claim seats in Parliament that are rightfully ours.”
Among the women MLAs who were supportive of the cause were former Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje of the BJP; TDP’s Anitha Vangalapudi, Pilli Anantha Lakshmi and DA Sathya Prabha as well as Viswasarayi Kalavathi of YSRCP; TRS’ Padma Reddy and Rekha Naik; CPI(M)’s J Mercykutty Amma, Aisha Potty and U Pratibha; AIADMK’s M Parameswari, N Manoranjitham, P Sathya, M Geetha and P Manonmani and DMK’s P Seethapathy.
Earlier in December Shakti had done a similar campaign for Members of Parliament for pushing for the Women’s Reservation Bill which lapsed in the 15th Lok Sabha though it was passed in the Rajya Sabha in 2010. At that time, out of the 373 MPs that participants of the campaign called, 126 said that they supported the Bill.
Shakti is a non-partisan and inclusive platform of women across the country who have come together, setting aside differences of region, caste, creed and ideology with the objective to get more women elected as MLAs and MPs.