Priyanka says Congress will field women in 40% UP Assembly seats; Mayawati calls it 'pure drama'

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The Congress will give 40 percent of tickets to women in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections beginning next year, party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said on Tuesday.

The announcement is viewed as the Congress' move to woo women voters in Uttar Pradesh, who had thrown their weight behind the Narendra Modi-led BJP campaign in the previous state elections.

"Today, I am going to talk about our first promise. We have decided that in the upcoming Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress party will give 40 percent of tickets to women," Priyanka said.

"We want women in politics to become a full-fledged partner in power," she told reporters.

Priyanka said that the decision has been taken considering that women's representation should be commensurate to their share in the population. She also said that if the decision was left to her alone, she would have gone for a 50 percent ticket distribution among women leaders.

Meanwhile, BSP chief Mayawati, labeling this announcement as "pure election drama" said that Congress remembers women, Dalits and backwards only when out of power.

In a tweet in Hindi, Mayawati said, "When it is in power and going through good days, the Congress does not remember Dalits, backwards and women. But now when they are going through a low period which refuses to go away, they have remembered women in Uttar Pradesh like they did Dalits in Punjab."

"The announcement of giving 40 percent tickets to women is nothing more than a pure election drama. If the Congress was so concerned about women, why did they not make the provision of 33 percent reservation for them in Parliament and legislative assemblies when the party was in power, " asked Mayawati, as per PTI. She further tweeted, "In Uttar Pradesh and across the country, women constitute half the population. A continuous process of concerted and sincere efforts are not only required for their welfare but also their safety and respect and this needs strong will power which is hard to find in the Congress and the BJP. Whereas the BSP has shown it by doing so."

'Idea stems from idealism and realism'

Elaborating on her party's decision to field women in at least 40 percent seats, Priyanka said, "The idea stems from both idealism and realism. As I toured across UP ever since I took the responsibility of the state, I was moved by the plight of women in UP and was impressed by their zeal to fight back."

"I urge women to come into politics and stand with me shoulder to shoulder. Together, we will change the politics of this country and this state. The government thinks Rs 2,000 and gas cylinder makes everything okay€¦ We will get strong women candidates and we will support them. If not now, then they will become stronger by the next election," she added.

Although much remains to be seen, the move seems like a breath of fresh air in the patriarchal setup of Uttar Pradesh politics.

In 2017 Assembly polls, only 11 out of 114 Congress candidates were women. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had given tickets to 43 women in its list of 384 candidates while the Samajwadi Party (SP) had given tickets to 33 women. Just 19 women were given tickets by Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the only noticeable political party to be led by a Dalit woman.

When asked how will the Congress party ensure to field strong women candidates, Vadra said, "We will get candidates, we will support them. They will win next time, if not this time."

On the question of her own candidature in polls, Priyanka chose to remain non-committal. She said, "I have still not decided upon it. It is an idea still under consideration."

On 17 October, Congress leader PL Punia said that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra would be the party's face in the election campaign for the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh next year. He said that Vadra, the general secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC), was the most popular political figure in the state.

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