It’s women power in Panaji. Thirty-eight out of the 92 candidates contesting the forthcoming elections to the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) belong to the fairer sex.
More importantly, these women are not just contesting in the city wards reserved for women, but in the general category too.
“It is a testimony to the fact that women in Goa are far more ahead and progressive than those elsewhere in India. The reservation law was brought into force to help the women in rural parts of India. It was to bring these women out, from behind the confines of the curtains in their households. Here in Goa, we have noticed that even the women in rural villages are fiery and strong. We have witnessed this in the various agitations we have participated in,” social activist Patricia Pinto said.
While most of the 38 women candidates make up the numbers in the 10 wards reserved for them, there are also a sizable number of women contesting in the general wards too.
For example: Ward 3 (general category) in Caranzalem has four candidates, out of which three are women.
In the current 30-member council, 11 members are women. During the last five years, three women who stood on their own merits and even outshone their male counterparts were: Current mayor Carolina Po and Regina Almeida from the ruling panel, while Vaidehi Naik stood as a strong pillar to support Surendra Furtado and Menino da Cruz in the opposition.
While Po handled affairs as mayor, Almeida was among the very few voices in the ruling panel who dared to criticize the CCP on several issues, including the mismanagement of its own assets and properties. Naik, on the other hand, rattled the ruling panel on several occasions.
Political analysts, however, said that it remains to be seen whether the 38 women candidates are strong independent persons, capable of taking decisions on their own or are puppets of their husbands, who live in wards reserved for women. “This puppetry has taken place in the past, and women have ended up being present in the CCP just to make up the numbers with their husbands finding a way to get around the women’s reservation bill,” a Panaji-based analyst said.
Such candidates even exist among the current 38 women candidates, whose husbands were councillors in the past and who could not contest this time as their wards were reserved for women, the analyst added.
“Some men who seek business interests with the CCP have also fielded their wives, who will act as proxies on their behalf and help them bag contracts for civic works, of course, if elected,” another political analyst said.
Social activist Sabina Martins explains the situation, “Everybody has to learn the ropes somewhere. Someone has to mentor you. Internships are prevalent in every profession. However, this is not the case in politics. In the case of men, they learn from other men who are experienced in politics. In the case of women, they learn from the men in the household-if the men are corrupt, they learn corruption and if the men are of a good character, that’s what the women have.”
Martins also said that training in governance must be given to new political aspirants. “There should be training programmes for men and women on laws, budgeting and implementation. We also need to have ward committees so that planning does not stop after the elections,” she added.