NEW DELHI — BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi Saturday said only actresses with a TMC ticket do not represent all women in politics, and that the Mamata Banerjee-led party fielding popular faces of the Bengali film industry cannot be called women empowerment.
The BJP candidate from the high-profile New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency also said all parties need to put in extra efforts to boost the participation of the fairer sex in public life at every level.
Only 18 of the 164 candidates in the fray in Delhi are women, according to data from Delhi’s chief electoral office.
“More women should join politics. They should be interested in politics. Giving women ticket for the sake of it is not the right thing to do,” Lekhi told PTI in an interview, citing the example of the Trinamool Congress.
“The TMC has given tickets to all the actresses as if they only represent the womenfolk and ‘normal women’ are not worthy of being in politics. This is not women empowerment. The TMC is encashing the popularity of these faces,” she alleged.
When pointed out that the BJP has also fielded actresses such as Jaya Prada and Hema Malini, Lekhi said only those who have proven themselves in politics have been given tickets by her party.
It’s absolutely fine to give a ticket to an actress who has spent a considerable amount of time in politics, promoting party and working in the field, she said.
“People from any profession can join politics. But, giving someone a ticket just because she’s an actress and has some amount of popularity quotient?... I don’t know,” she said.
The 52-year-old lawyer said women are finding it hard to move away from the drudgery of normal life.
“To boost the participation of women in politics, we need an accepting society. Financial background and family support also play a major role,” she said.
“I think all parties need to put in extra efforts to get more women into their fold at every level,” she said.
Of the 13 women candidates who were in the fray in Delhi in 2014, only Lekhi had come out on the top. This time, she is pitted against Congress’s Ajay Maken, a two-time MP, and AAP’s Brijesh Goyal, a first-timer.
Lekhi also said Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra made the right choice by not contesting against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as it would have exposed her, her husband and the Congress’s campaign.
“Had she decided to contest, a lot of murkier things would have come out in the open through the affidavits she would have filed before the electoral officers. There would have been a multi-fold exposure,” she claimed.
On the BJP’s shift from the issue of development to nationalism, she said, “How are the two issues different? Can you improve the economic condition of any country without making its people safe and secure. Can a country, whose borders aren’t safe, be prosperous?
“The two issues are completely inter-linked. Only when you put your country before everything else, then only you can move forward with a developmental agenda,” she said.
On Maken’s claim that Lekhi is trying to encash Modi’s image as she herself failed to do anything for the constituency, she said her rival neither has any credibility nor a name like Modi.
“All the problems Delhi is plagued with are related to urban development. The Congress and Maken, a former urban development minister, are responsible for the mess. He should tell what did they do in 10 years ― from 2004 to 2014,” she said.
Maken says during his tenure as urban development minister, he made 170 amendments to Delhi’s master plan to resolve the sealing issue and the BJP government could have done the same.
To this, Lekhi said, “An affidavit has been filed in the Supreme Court with a roadmap to remove the anomalies in Delhi’s master plan.”
“The sealing drive started during his tenure as central minister. It’s the BJP government that extended floor area ratio (FAR) for shop-cum-residence plots and complexes to bring it at par with residential plots to provide relief to traders facing the threat of sealing,” she claimed.
Asked if the issue of air pollution figures in her poll campaign, she said, “Yes, but my problem is that I can’t replace the Delhi government. The pollution control committee falls under Delhi government.”
The Delhi government has not even studied the reasons for pollution in the city. The air quality is depleting not because of vehicles, but because of dust from construction and demolition waste lying untreated, she said.
The AAP spent a huge amount of money on the publicity of an application meant for treating C&D waste but nothing happened, she alleged.
On a number of PWD roads, debris is lying unattended. Workers are just constructing and dismantling the same stretch repeatedly, Lekhi alleged.
She claimed she spent Rs 32 crore from MPLAD funds, including Rs 7.6 crore left unspent by her predecessor Maken on developmental works in the constituency.
Under the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLAD), every MP is given Rs 5 crore per year for undertaking developmental projects in his or her constituency.
Lekhi claimed she brought the concept of open gyms in the country, “which is being emulated by everyone now”.
She also claimed credit for the renovation works at the three major railway stations in the constituency ― New Delhi, Delhi Cantt, and Sarai Rohilla.
“Normally, officers used to travel abroad. When I sat in the chair, I sent the gardeners, class 3 and class 4 employees to European countries like Holland and Spain for training,” she said.