The high-octane battle for Punjab may not see some of the most high-profile female candidates (read wives of top politicians) jumping into the poll fray directly, but they are certainly not out of the fight.
Even though the number of women candidates has fallen to less than a third of last time, one of the most noticeable features this time is the battle of Kaurs —Harsimrat Badal, wife of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal (SAD), Preneet Kaur, wife of Captain Amrinder Singh (Congress), and Navjot Kaur Sidhu, wife of cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu (Congress).
Interestingly, all these women are not even in the poll fray but still hold the trump card in many ways.
Preneet Kaur in Patiala Dressed in a pastel colour kameez and a traditional Patiala salwar with a dupatta, Preneet Kaur leads the campaign in this erstwhile princely state. Accompanied by two more kaurs, including daughter Jaya Inder Kaur and granddaughter Seher Inder Kaur, she is making the presence of the "maharaja" (as Amarinder Singh is fondly called) felt, in the city. Preneet is filling in husband Amarinder's boots while he is away campaigning in other assembly seats.
Being the chief ministerial face of the party, Singh's time is now taken up by Lambi, where he has thrown in his hat in the ring against chief minister Prakash Singh Badal and Aam Aadmi Party candidate Jarnail Singh.
Back in Patiala, the "maharani" is working hard to ensure that the "captain" does not lose this battle to the "general", former army chief JJ Singh of SAD and to AAP's Balbir Singh. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Preneet lost the Patiala seat to Dharamvir Gandhi of the Aam Aadmi Party by a margin of 20,942 votes. Trying to put that behind, it's full steam ahead for this kaur.
Harsimrat Kaur Badal in Jalalabad
The SAD claims that Harsimrat is not limited to Jalalabad, where her husband Sukhbir Singh Badal is locked in a battle with Bhagwant Mann, the rising star of Aam Aadmi Party. Clocking in several hours, she is campaigning aggressively across the state, including Jalalabad. Harsimrat broke the glass-ceiling by becoming the first woman in the Badal clan to enter politics in 2009.
Wearing a salwar-kameez, hair always covered, and speaking in chaste Punjabi, Harsimrat's rise began when she won the prestigious Bathinda seat, defeating Amarinder Singh’s son Raninder Singh by 1.2 lakh votes. This win got Harsimrat a place in the Modi cabinet — Union minister for food processing.
Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with her husband, she is not leaving anything to chance and looking well in control of things.
Navjot Kaur Sidhu in Amritsar East
A namesake of her multifaceted husband and cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, Navjot Kaur, has had served the Punjab health department (she is a doctor by profession) before joining politics in 2012.
She followed in her husband's footsteps and joined Awaaz e Punjab (a party formed by Sidhu) but took the lead to join the Congress. She has a simple but aggressive style when it comes to defending her husband. Through thick and thin, Navjot has stuck by him. She has been an MLA from the constituency while Sidhu was the MP. The turnaround for Sidhu has been dramatic and many of his followers give the credit to his wife.
"Behind every successful man there is a woman”— the saying may be a cliché, but these women are undeniably playing a key role this election season.