PANJIM: Forget about the maxim of ‘ladies first’. The Goa Assembly has never had women MLAs whose number you couldn’t count on your finger tips.
The 128th Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2023 in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday to give 33 per cent reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies was introduced. The data of Goa, however, shows that participation of women candidates has been abysmally low and women MLAs account for below 10 per cent of Goa Assembly strength.
In Goa, the last delimitation exercise was held in 2012 and it is now due in 2037. There is no likelihood of the 2027 Assembly polls being held as per the reservation.
The State politics shows a dismal track record of national parties fielding women candidates. Though the late Shashikala Kakodkar was the first woman to become Chief Minister of Goa, there was no woman MLA in the State after her defeat in 1980 right up to 1989. In 1984, three women were nominated as MLAs in the erstwhile Goa, Daman and Diu Assembly.
After Goa attained Statehood, two women were elected as MLAs in 1989 polls and the number increased to three in 1994 elections. In 1999 the Assembly had only two women MLAs.
In 2002, 2007 and 2012, it dropped to an abysmal one female MLA. In 2017, there were two, while in the 2022 elections the number went to three - Delilah Lobo, Jennifer Monserrate and Deviya Rane - all of whom happen to be wives of other sitting MLAs.
In the 2012 elections, the BJP for the first time, secured a majority of 21 seats but did not field a single woman candidate.
It was only in the 2017 polls, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) fielded five women candidates, which was about 12.5 per cent, while Congress gave tickets to three women candidates and one by BJP.
Welcoming the Women’s Reservation bill, former State Congress president and former Minister Nirmala Sawant said, “Long awaited demand is met ultimately. Very few women have come up on their own in politics, unlike others who are backed by their families. Often women find it difficult to contest against male-dominated society because of certain restrictions.”
Former Minister Fatima D’Sa said, “The reservation for women was being demanded for a long time. The 33 per cent reservation will allow women to actively participate in decision-making. Also, it will bring a change in politics.”
Former MLA Farrel Furtado e Gracias said, “The Women’s Reservation Bill has not created a difference for me, because I fought elections with male-dominated contestants.”
“As I look back, I can see in the local bodies, where Rajiv Gandhi brought the amendment for reservation for women, that there are many men who field their wives or family members when the seat is reserved and rule as proxies,” she said.
“Some women have political godfathers or links and succeed. But what about the many women, who are capable, yet don’t stand any chance because of such interferences?” Gracias asked.
Goa Mahila Congress president Beena Naik said, “Better late than never. Empowering women was the dream of former Prime Minister late Rajiv Gandhi, who brought the amendment Bills to reserve wards for women at Panchayat Raj in 1989, but was passed in April 1993 by then Prime Minister P V Narsinharao and made it into an Act.”
Naik said that in 2010, the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh passed the Women’s Reservation Bill in Rajya Sabha, but it remained pending in the Lower House.
“But ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections, when the BJP government realised that women voters in India are 51 per cent, they tried to woo them by giving reservations. But they never thought of Manipur mahilas or all the mahilas towards whom injustice was done, like our Olympic players during last nine-and-a-half years of their rule,” she said.
Former MLA and BJP State General Secretary Damu Naik said, “It is an important step toward women’s empowerment. It is a historic decision to start giving reservations for women in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies. It was pending for several years. This will definitely expand the participation of women in active politics.”
AAP State President Adv Amit Palekar said, ‘‘It’s a good decision. But it should not remain a political gimmick. It should not remain on paper. In fact, the BJP has not given anything. It was the Aam Aadmi Party which gave reservation to women in the Assembly elections in the real sense.”