The Lok Sabha elections held in 2019 has seen an all-time high of female candidates being elected, with a total of 78 seats won by women. Along with young newcomers like 30-year old Mimi Chakraborty and 29-year old Nusrat Jahan, there were many veterans elected too, like Sonia Gandhi and Maneka Gandhi. Women’s involvement in Indian politics does not limit to just running for public office or holding a seat in the Parliament, but the very basis of forming a democracy, that of voting. Ever since India’s independence from the British, the constitutional right to vote has been granted to everyone in the country, irrespective of gender or caste. But, despite this, the participation of women in politics in the country had been low for many years, with only Indira Gandhi and Pratibha Patil being the only female heads of state in so many years of democracy. It has been from the past couple of years that this has started to rise, albeit slowly but steadily.
In ancient India, women often were not only involved actively in politics, but also ran administrations without any gender bias. Although, this was something enjoyed by only those women who were from aristocratic classes. But with the rise of foreign invasions, the role of women was reduced to mere wives who ran households with no say of their own. This added to the decades and decades of patriarchy that have been oppressing them till this day. In 1950, men and women were granted universal suffrage, but the Lok Sabha elections in 1962 saw only 46.63% participation of women as opposed to the 63.31% participation of men. The gap between the two was a huge 16.7% in terms of number of voters. But, with time, women have come out for voting and slowly reduced this giant gap. It was reported that the difference between women and men voters was just 4.4% respectively. The voter turnout during General Elections had always remained in the range of 50% to 60% for almost 50 years since the constitution granted citizens the right to vote. But with the rise of women’s participation in state elections, the women turnout is increasingly growing over the years to exceed male turnout. Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Daman and Diu, and Pondicherry even reported in 2013 that the female turnout exceeded the male voter turnout. But, it is a long way for women before they finally get the chance of a bigger involvement in Indian politics.
In 1996, former Prime Minister of India, H D Deve Gowda proposed the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha, to reserve 33% or 1/3rd of the seats in Parliament for women candidates. But despite being brought up many times during Parliament sessions, lack of political consensus has failed to let this bill pass. This indeed raises a huge question as to why a bill as important as this, is yet to be passed. It isn’t just the question of why opposing parties refuse to work together on this bill, even female ministers of Parliament refuse to question as to why this is still pending. When this slack attitude with respect to this bill is improved, only then can we see more number of female ministers in the Lok Sabha, as well as, the Rajya Sabha. In the 2014 general elections, only 11.8% of the seats in Lok Sabha were held by women. The 2019 Lok Sabha elections managed to get a higher number with 14% of the seats taken by women being elected, which can be considered a small but significant rise. But in the bigger picture, it is just a mere 5% rise in the number of women holding seats in Lok Sabha as compared to 1952, when the Lok Sabha was first constituted. But it is also to be seen that the number of female candidates that contested for the elections in 2019 was just around 716 as opposed to 7207 male candidates; wherein 10% of the total women got elected, while only 7% of the men got elected. Thus, it can be observed that female candidates in recent times have higher chances of getting elected, which can be a good thing should more female candidates decide to run for public offices. Also, as per analysis reports of the Association for Democratic Reforms, 55% of the female candidates had an educational qualification of graduate and above; while, 74% of the candidates fell in the age category of 25 to 50 years. This definitely shows that when it comes to female candidacy, the pool is well-educated and easily relatable when it comes to the younger category of voters.
The report further states the party-wise representation of female candidates, as shown in the
|Party||Total number of Candidates||Women||Men||Percentage of Women Candidates|
In Indian politics, women have a long path ahead, but initiatives like ‘Shakti’, a non-profit citizen’s collective that is working its way for equal representation of women in India legislation, there seems to be some ray of hope of quicker processes. While it is not easy for female politicians everywhere, with only 25% of parliamentary seats being held by women all over the world, here is to hoping that the scenario in Indian politics will change for the better and show gender equality just like the universal suffrage the constitution has granted us.