New Delhi: In every election, there are conversations and analysis on various factors that impact the results: caste, money, unemployment and agrarian crisis among others. In all of these factors, women appear as a footnote. Do women vote according to caste? What do they want from the government? Do they feel a woman politician is better for women? This series is an attempt to find out How Women Vote.
This morning, Atishi Marlena, Aam Aadmi Party's East Delhi candidate, and Manish Sisodia, deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, went on a rally holding two brooms. Atishi, the only woman candidate of AAP, then, filed her nomination for the Lok Sabha election. Clearly, the ongoing alliance talks between the Congress and the AAP in the national capital have finally reached a dead end.
A month ago, Atishi's team had started the preparations for her campaign. At her not-very-big office in East Delhi, whiteboards were put up detailing the different kind of rallies she will be taking out in her constituency. It was all quite methodical, pretty much like her candidature.
Exactly a year ago, on April 22, 2018, Sisodia, also Delhi's Education Minister had written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the sacking of Atishi. She had been advising the Delhi government on education reforms and is said to have played a pivotal role in it. She was among nine advisers and consultants to Delhi ministers who were removed after a home ministry order.
"What is the message you (Modi) want to send out by dismissing such a patriotic, educated, and talented woman who was working for the education of the children of Delhi?" Sisodia had written in his letter, also mentioning that Atishi, who studied at Oxford, then worked as Rhodes scholar, and then joined Delhi education government as an adviser was drawing a salary of only Re 1 per month.
A year later, things have come a full circle.
"I am not asking people to vote for me so I can work for them. My work is for them to see. I am in election battlefield telling the voters that I have already done some work. So, if you were to send me to Parliament I can do much more,” she told News18.com in an interview.
But, given that she is the only woman candidate of AAP, does she have a plan for winning women's votes? "Yes!" the AAP politician exclaims before referring to her party's slogan that she feels will woo the women voters - "Bijli half karenge, paani maaf karenge".
"Earlier the belief was that women vote according to their family. That's not the case, they make their own decisions," the AAP leader said.
Two months ago in February, Atishi had launched a crowdfunding drive that generated endorsements from Yashwant Sinha, Javed Jaffrey and Jignesh Mevani, among others. Gujarat MLA Mevani posted a video in support of Atishi and said, "Atishi will be an impactful presence in the Parliament, which has ‘too few’ women members".
So, why didn't AAP field more women candidates? Atishi says, "It's a question of dominance. Political parties are a reflection of the society."
Although a staunch supporter of the Women Reservation Bill to ensure 33 per cent reservation for women in the Parliament, she said that it is not very easy for any marginalised group to come forward in any domain.
"Politics is far more complex and difficult than other professions as it takes over your own personal life…it becomes more challenging for women," she said. However, she said that without legislation, no political party can be expected to bring in more women. "Representation of women will happen only if there is a reservation,” she said.
The AAP politician said that too often women don't care about their own health while trying to stay within the household budget. "Women's healthcare comes the last in a family. This is why our focus will be on healthcare, we are going to make it affordable," she said. Atishi also mentioned that children's education will be a big factor to woo women votes. "The kind of work I have been doing in transforming the government school structure in the city should be valued," she added.
She pointed out that earlier children were promoted in schools before understanding the basics. "Sixty-five per cent of grade 6 students in government schools couldn't even read. We have completely transformed that," she said.
She added that most of the children in government schools are girls. "If there are two children in a family, the boy is usually sent to a private school and the girls are sent to government schools," she said, adding that over 60 per cent of the students in government schools are girls.
Atishi said that 'women safety and security' will be the top priority for AAP. However, she said that it will be difficult to achieve that without full statehood.
"We need control over Delhi Police, we need more PCR vans and we need more police stations to ensure overall justice and better safety for women," she said. In her words, that's why AAP's voice needs to reach the Parliament.