Women are calling the shots on the Indian political scenario and the country’s largest state Uttar Pradesh is no exception either. Women politicians have been the guiding force of the state’s politics since the pre-Independence era.

If the Nightingale of India Sarojni Naidu became the first Governor of United Province of Independent India (previous name of Uttar Pradesh), Sucheta Kriplani bagged the honour of becoming the first woman Chief Minister of UP on October 2, 1963. Prior to being named the first Governor of United Province, Sarojni Naidu achieved the rare distinction of becoming the first woman to hold the post of president of Indian National Congress.

At present, women politicians are not only holding the keys posts but also setting the tone for country’s development. The stronghold of women on Indian political field is clearly visible as Pratibha Patil holds the key post of President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi not only guides the Congress but also plays an important role in decisions taken by the Centre.

Three important states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu are being ruled by women who have scripted a success story for themselves through their performance and dedication.

In 2007, Mayawati had sprung a major surprise by coming in complete majority in Uttar Pradesh.  When we look into the women’s political participation in the larger states of India (having more than 20 seats in the Lok Sabha), Madhya Pradesh has the highest percentage of women MPs (21%), followed by West Bengal (17%) and Uttar Pradesh (15%).

In the 2007 Lok Sabha and 2007 assembly elections, women politicians proved their mettle.  People were taken by surprise Congress candidate from Unnao Lok Sabha seat Annu Tandon defeated BSP’s mafia turned politicians Arun Shanker Shula by a whopping margin of 3,02, 076 votes in the 2009 General elections. After Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, Tandon registered the biggest win from the state. Her performance speaks volume about the increasing significance of women politicians in the state.

With 2012 assembly polls in UP round the corner, all the four leading political parties including the BSP, Congress, BJP and Samajwadi Party have pinned high hopes on women candidates.

Congress is relying on old warhorse and party’s state president Rita Bahuguna Joshi, former legislator Loius Khurshid and Sultanpur legislator Amita Singh to lead their women campaign in the state. For the BSP, party supremo Mayawati herself will be taking the charge. Five time BJP legislator from Kalyanpur assembly seat of Kanpur Prem Lata Katiyar, Kheri MLA Krishna Raj, Varanasi legislator Jyotsna Srivastava, Aligarh MLA Prem Lata Devi, party legislator from Jaunpur Seema Dwivedi will try to keep the saffron flag flying high in UP.
For Samajwadi Party the responsibility will rest in the hands of Sarsaul legislator Aruna Tomar, Devaria MLA Choudhary Faisha Bashar, Gonda legislator Nandita Shukla, Bhadohi MLA Madhubala, Rajmati Nishad of Gorakhpur and Sayyiada Shahdab Fatima of Ghaziabad.   

Rashtriya Lok Dal which will be a major force to be reckon with in the western belt of UP has two sitting MLAs – Mithlesh Pal from Muzzafarnagar and Vimlesh Singh from Aligarh. Both Singh and Pal will try to strengthen the party base in western UP. 

Undoubtedly, Mayawati is the beacon among women politicians of Uttar Pradesh. Despite her birth in a Dalit family, Mayawati's rise in the state politics has been phenomenal. Under the patronage of the Dalit ideologue and the founder of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Kanshi Ram she has grown into a household name. Making UP her base, she has emerged one of the most prominent leaders of Dalit masses in the country.

Although she has evoked controversy in the past for her vitriolic remarks targeting the uppers Castes, she has mellowed down with the passage of time. By giving 86 seats to Upper Castes in 2007 assembly elections, she has measured up to her slogan of taking along 'Sarva Samaj' – all segments of society. In her new avatar, she has shrewdly tried to expand the BSP's base among upper castes and Muslims while maintaining her traditional Dalit vote bank.

In 1980’s and early 90’s CPI (M) had made its presence felt in UP under the dynamic leadership of Subhashini Ali. However, in late 90’s the CPI (M) charm slowly faded away from the state. 

Bandit queen Phoolan Devi had led the women brigade of Samajwadi Party for a long time span. SP parliamentarian from Bhadohi, Phoolan was a highly popular politician but her unfortunate death brought to an end a promising political career.

Before the Amar Singh controversy, parliamentarian Jaya Prada remained one of the key faces of the women wing of Samajwadi Party. Despite the bickering with party stalwart Azam Khan, she was successful in retaining Rampur parliamentary seat.

JPN