SHILLONG, March 3 – The ninth Meghalaya Assembly would get its strongest feminine touch with the entry of four female candidates in the 60-member House.
This is the highest number of female candidates entering into the Meghalaya Assembly after the creation of the State in 1972. During the 6th Assembly in 1998, there were three female candidates and it was the previous highest record of women representatives.
In the first general elections of 1972, just one woman candidate won. The trend has been more or less the same over the years. In the last Assembly Urban Affairs Minister Ampareen Lyngdoh was the lone woman representative. She is currently embroiled in a controversy, after being indicted by the CBI for tampering with results of teachers’ recruitment last year.
Incidentally, all the four women legislators are from the Congress who would form the government. Apart from Lyngdoh, senior Congress legislator and the State working president, Deborah Marak, Roshan Warjri and Chief Minister Mukul Sangma’s wife Dikanchi D Shira are the other women.
Many would have preferred that a few of these representatives belonged to the opposition parties like the United Democratic Party, Hill State People’s Democratic Party, National People’s Party and others.
Meghalaya follows a matrilineal society and therefore, the Chief Minister’s wife’ surname is not Sangma and Shira, as is the norm elsewhere. Children belonging to the three tribes – Khasi, Jaintia and Garo – take the mother’s surname and women retain their surname after marriage.
But, despite being a matrilineal society, women have the least say in the traditional political set-up and in terms of economic freedom, women are also marginalised. The crime rate against women is also high.
Deborah Marak is a seasoned politician and has held several key portfolios over the years and is likely to get a ministerial berth this time. She is also the niece of former Chief Minister Salseng C Marak who has made a comeback in this election.
Roshan Warjri, after joining the Congress last year was made the chairperson of the women’s commission. A veteran politician, she has contested and won in earlier elections, but on regional party tickets. She too held several key ministerial berths in her political career.
Only Dikanchi D Shira is the newcomer, but should not find it difficult to move around the male-dominated corridors of power with the guidance of her husband and also brother-in-law, Zenith Sangma, who is making a comeback for a second term after losing in the 2008 elections.
Although many would argue that less than ten per cent representation of women in the Assembly is far from satisfactory, one would expect that women-related issues would be more sensitively taken up now with the entry of these women legislators.