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|February 25, 1998||
Women candidates find poll battle 'daunting' but 'worthwhile'
The National Commission for Women proposes to record the 'poll-experiences' of all the 255 women in the 13th Lok Sabha fray.
This, NCW chairperson Mohini Giri said, was with a view to gather enough material to help women candidates in the next election, and guide them to perform better next time.
The NCW had invited the 10 women contestants from Delhi for the initiation exercise. Four of them shared their experience at the inauguration -- all agreed it was ''a mammoth exercise requiring finances, energy, time and stamina,'' but a ''worthwhile" one, definitely. All said they would do it again, given a chance.
Stressing the need for women to have party support, Congress candidate in East Delhi Shiela Dixit said without it the fight could be very daunting. Even though she entered the fray very late and in a constituency unfamiliar to her, the support of voluntary workers was what eventually facilitated her electioneering.
''I have done my best now. Whether I win or lose is immaterial -- at least I have the satisfaction of going about it in the right way,'' she said.
As a woman, she faced no handicaps. In fact, it helped at times. It was easier for women to build a rapport with members of her sex. The men candidates would have to work doubly hard for this, she said.
Swaraj Bala, who fought on the Rashtriya Janata Party ticket and took on bigwigs like R K Dhawan and Jagmohan in the New Delhi constituency, described it as 'a lonely battle' which she refused to give up till the end 'despite threats, pressures and the paucity of men and money'.
Faced with rivals wooing voters with liquor bags, money and other goods, the path for women candidates, most of them fighting alone, was arduous and tough, she said.
Nisha Gautam, the Bahujan Samaj Party's candidate from South Delhi where Sushma Swaraj was among her rivals, said her party provided her full support and she faced few problems while campaigning.
Kamla Devi, who contested from Karol Bagh, said even if she lost 10 times she would fight again and again as she 'desired to serve the people'.
Most candidates admitted they had little chance of winning, pitted as they were against 'big parties' loaded with money and material. The candidates from the 'big parties' -- Sushma Swaraj and Meira Kumar -- were not present at the initiation exercise as they were away campaigning.
Of the 255 women contestants, the largest number -- 55 -- was in Uttar Pradesh, followed by Madhya Pradesh (28), Bihar (22), West Bengal (21) and Andhra Pradesh (18). Rajasthan had 17 and Karnataka, Orissa and Delhi 10 each. While Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu had 13 each, Punjab had nine, Haryana five and Kerala four.
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