Manipur sees highest number of women elected to Assembly

17

Five women were elected to the 60-member Manipur Assembly in the 2022 polls, the highest-ever in the electoral history of the state, where 10,57,336 women voters (52 per cent) outnumbered the male electorate of 9,90,833.

S.S Olish (Chandel), former Minister Nemcha Kipgen (Kangpokpi), Sagolshem Kebi Devi (Naoriya Pakhanglakpa), all BJP, and Irengbam Nalini Devi (Oinam seat) and Pukhrambam Sumati Devi of National People’s Party (NPP) won their seats, defeating their male rivals.

Firebrand women leader and JD-U candidate Thounaojam Brinda, who was the Additional Superintendent of Police (Headquarters), also contested the elections from the Yaiskul constituency but came third, bagging 4,574 votes (18.93 per cent).

In all, 17 women candidates, or 6.42 per cent of the total 265 contenders, from various parties, were in this fray – again the highest. They included four from the Congress, three each from the ruling BJP and NPP, two of the Nationalist Congress Party, one each from the Communist Party of India, Janata Dal-United and a local party and two are independent aspirants.

In 2017 Assembly polls, 11 women candidates had contested but only two had won, down from three in the 2012 elections. In 2017, firebrand rights activist Irom Sharmila Chanu drew the attention of every one when she contested the polls on behalf of the People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance party breaking her 16 year-long fast against the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, but lost.

Manipur has had less than 10 women legislators and just one women MP – Kim Gangte in the 12th Lok Sabha – since 1972 when it became a full-fledged state.

It was only in 1990 that the state saw its first woman legislator, Hangmila Shaiza (wife of Yangmasho Shaiza, the fourth Chief Minister of Manipur) from Ukhrul Assembly constituency.

Various organisations, researchers, and political analysts said that political parties and leaders are always talking about the significant role of women in the Manipuri society but they nominate a negligible number of women in the elections, especially in the parliamentary and assembly polls.

Imphal-based writer and political commentator Iboyaima Laithangbam said: “Unless women become a part of the policy making bodies, their actual empowerment is not possible. By allowing fewer numbers of women to contest the elections, the political parties are depriving the women from the equal rights’ terms.”

“In the Manipur economy, women are playing a very crucial role. Since the British period, the unique ‘Ima Keithel’ has become a symbol of women’s empowerment and independence. Ima Keithel is not only a simple marketplace or trading centre, but these are apex hubs for campaigns on various societal issues and institutions against anti-social activities,” Laithangbam told IANS.

The century old and world’s largest all-women run market ‘Ima Keithal’ or the ‘Mother’s Market’, located in Imphal and other smaller all-women markets functioning in different parts of the northeastern state boost the local economy to a large extent and are a source of livelihood for thousands of women.

Political analyst and retired Associate Professor of Manipur University, Dr Chinglen Maisnam, said that women are always being treated as non-entities in the Manipuri society and the men dominate all aspects including governance.

“Muscle power and money power dominated Manipur politics leading to the insignificant women’s participation in the state politics and electoral fray. Gender bias is very strong in the mindset of most leaders of the political parties,” Maisnam told IANS.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at sujit.c@ians.in)

20220310-234402

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here