UP elections: Unnao rape victim's mother among Congress poll candidates
The Indian National Congress on Thursday named the 2017 Unnao rape victim's mother, Asha Singh, as its poll candidate for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections. The party announced a list of 125 poll candidates, including 50 women. The list comprises 40% women and 40% youth, said the party's UP General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as she unveiled the list in a virtual news conference.
Why does this story matter?
The list came as Congress is trying to gain ground in the state by making women issues its key poll plank. The party has made "Ladki Hoon, Lad Sakti Hoon" (I am a girl and I can fight) its main slogan for the elections. The party is looking to challenge the state's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its main rival in national politics.
Who is Asha Singh?
Asha Singh is the mother of the 2017 Unnao rape incident victim. She has one son (aged seven) and four daughters, aged 25, 19, 15, and 13. Asha is not literate. However, her daughters are educated. One of her daughters is pursuing a Master's degree. Agriculture is the primary income source for the family that mostly lives in Delhi due to court cases.
Prominent faces among Congress candidates
The Congress party's candidates include Sonbhadra district Congress Committee President Ramraj Gond. Gond had spearheaded the Gond tribals' legal battle over land in Umbha village in Sonbhadra. The party also gave a ticket to ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) worker Poonam Pandey. Pandey had made headlines she was thrashed by cops while trying to meet UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Shahjahanpur last November.
Who are the other candidates?
Congress leader Sadaf Jafar—who was in jail in connection with the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act stir—is being fielded from Lucknow Central. Pankhuri Pathak will contest from Noida, while Salman Khurshid's wife Louise will contest from Farrukhabad. Sitting MLA Aradhana Mishra will be fielded from Rampur Khas.
Check the complete list of candidates here
Candidates list sends new message: Gandhi
"Our list sends a new message that if you have been a victim of harassment and torture, the Congress will support you," Gandhi said. She said the party's aim is to fight on people's issues. Congress will not indulge in negative campaigns and focus on the issues of "development and progress of Dalits and backwards (Other Backward Classes or OBCs)," she added.
I'll continue what I've started: Gandhi
Gandhi said that she will continue what she has started in UP and will remain in the state even after the elections conclude. I will strengthen the party further in the state," said Gandhi, who has been vocal on rising crimes against women in UP.
What was Unnao rape case?
The case involves the alleged rape of a girl—then aged 17—by BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sanger in 2017. The case only made headlines in 2019 when the victim attempted self-immolation outside CM Adityanath's residence over alleged police inaction. Thereafter, her father was arrested under the Arms Act. He subsequently died in custody due to alleged custodial torture. Sanger was convicted of rape in 2019.
Why is Congress focusing on women?
According to the 2019 general election data, women comprised 6.61 crore or 46% of the registered voter population in UP. Growingly more women have participated in recent UP polls. For instance, during the 2012 elections—when Samajwadi Party's Akhilesh Yadav came to power—a greater share of registered women voters had cast their votes compared to men. Interestingly, the trend repeated itself in the 2017 polls.
UP going to polls next month
Assembly elections in UP will be held in seven phases from February 10 to March 7. It is expected to be a four-corner fight among the ruling BJP, Opposition Samajwadi Party, Congress, and the Bahujan Samaj Party. The BJP had won 325 of the 403 state assembly seats in 2017, however, it now faces a stiff challenge from Yadav's Samajwadi Party.