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Manipur Assembly elections 2017: Women candidates in the fray

Guihiamliu Riamei | New Delhi |

With International Women’s Day around the corner, let us take time to reflect on the roles played by women in Manipur politics, especially, in the coming Assembly elections 2017.

Minimum women represention:

Manipur has 18,93,743 voters of which 9,68,312 are women. Although the number of female voters exceeds male voters, women have minimal representation in the state political affairs. As many as 49 constituencies do not have a single woman candidate in the coming elections, which will go to polls for the 60-seat assembly in two phases -March 4 and March 8.

Two parties and just two women candidates each:

In fact, the main contenders of the Manipur Assembly elections 2017- the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – have fielded only two women candidates each.

The Congress has fielded Akoijam Mirabai Devi and Loitongbam Tilotama Devi as its women candidates for the 11th Manipur Assembly elections. Both will be contesting in the first phase. While Akoijam Mirabai Devi is contesting from the Patsoi constituency, Loitongbam Tilotama Devi is being fielded from Langthabal.

Nemcha Kipgen, who resigned from the Congress is contesting as BJP candidate from Kangpokpi constituency. The other BJP woman candidate is SS Olish, who is contesting from Chandel constituency. Kipgen is contesting in the first phase while Olish in the second phase.

Iron lady leads the way:

The most prominent face among the women candiates in the Manipur Assembly elections 2017 is Iron Lady, Irom Sharmila, who is all set to contest against Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh.

Like the ruling Congress and the BJP, Irom Sharmila’s party – People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA) party has also fielded two women candidates including Sharmila and Najima Bibi. Sharmila, who ended her 16 years' fast against Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), on August 9, 2016 is contesting from two constituencies – Khurai and Thoubal.

Najima Bibi is, in fact, the first Muslim women candidate of Manipur who is contesting from Wabagai constituency. Bibi is determined to fight against domestic violence and work for the upliftment of Muslim women.

Manipur National Democratic Front (MNDF) party will have Y Romola Devi and S Achoubi as its women representatives from Keishamthong and Wangjing Tentha constituencies, respectively.

Despite the minimal representation Manipur Assembly elections 2017, the women candidates are all set to be the trendsetters. For instance, Iron Lady Irom Sharmila made a big leap – from a fast-unto-death protest to entering politics. Sharmila’s election objective includes rooting out corruption and injustice in the state besides carrying forward her protest to repeal AFSPA.