After much dilly-dallying, finally, Punjab urban local bodies (ULBs) are slated to go to the polls with a historic 50 per cent reservation of seats for women. This will not only ensure that women get their rightful share of place under the sun, but may also slightly tilt the balance of power in their favour if they opt to fight from some general quota seats that happen to be their strongholds. Over the years, political parties have been loath to loosen the strings of control and accord women a greater role in governance. But now, the time has come for them to assert their voices as they dive into the political waters of the municipal councils and corporations and storm yet another male bastion with a flourish and sensitivity that they are naturally endowed with. A little training to enhance their capacities and experience can convert the greenhorns into formidable leaders and, perhaps, even future public representatives in the Assembly or Parliament.
The urban landscape of the state under their watch is set for a progressive turn, if the record of governance by women councillors and sarpanches is anything to go by. Especially of those who took the wheel in their hands and navigated the tough political road, boldly steering away blatant attempts of backseat driving by the men of their family or community. While they have been visible on several fronts, such as opposing the opening of liquor vends, their contribution to debates on topical matters and getting clearances for roads, parks, streetlights, water supply etc. has been no less than that of their male counterparts.
As they occupy seats of power, they need to learn to increasingly take independent decisions and exercise authority for the improvement of their constituencies. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden’s firm handling of the situation during the coronavirus pandemic is the latest shining example of the capabilities of women leaders. Punjab is sure to gets its own Jacindas as the upcoming ULB polls promise to unveil and nurture many a woman leader.