In my early years as member of Parliament, whenever I visited my constituency, particularly villages with women sarpanches, I would meet and talk to them. The women would invariably point towards men, saying, “There is the sarpanch.”
I would ask again, pointing out that the village had a woman sarpanch. The woman would reply that the man was her husband; that she was, in fact, a stand-in for him.
I am happy that I now find real women sarpanches in the villages of my constituency, Bathinda. This is because of the increased awareness and active participation of women.
The Shiromani Akali Dal may be a conservative party. But, when I first became MP in 2009, there were two of us as first-time women MPs from my party. It took me a while to learn how to take up issues in the Lok Sabha. One thing I knew and was confident about was that I would raise issues pertaining to women, farmers and the poor and matters related to injustices to the Sikh community. I eventually did raise them.
As a member of Parliament, I get loads of papers and books. There are debates on a wide range of issues. You have to stay connected to your people, constituency and state all the time. And you have to learn the various tools and devices available in Parliament for raising issues of utmost and immediate importance. To become a parliamentarian who matters, one has to labour really hard, work on various issues and prepare well for the next day.
Parliament is largely a gender-neutral place. Many women MPs have made their mark in this man’s world. The current Lok Sabha has more women MPs than the previous one. A woman MP, in general, instils confidence in women. Women MPs across the political divide work together to raise issues like discrimination and crimes against women.
With each Lok Sabha, the number of women MPs has been rising. That is a good sign for democracy. With more women in Parliament, we tend to discuss more women-centric issues, raise matters pertaining to equality, and are able to reduce crimes against women.
I have been a strong advocate of the women’s reservation bill, which proposes to give women 33 per cent seats in the Lok Sabha. The National Democratic Alliance is committed to bringing the bill in the present Lok Sabha. I am sure that, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modiji, women will get half the sky.
As a woman MP who is into her third term now, my tip to the many young women colleagues in the Lok Sabha is this: Remain a true representative of the constituency that elected you. For that, stay connected to your people and your state. Work hard to be the voice of the women there, and of the poor and the downtrodden. That is the key.
Badal is Union minister and MP from Bathinda, Punjab.