CHENNAI: With five states set to go to polls from Saturday, what does history say about the success of women in Indian politics? Have women managed to rise to the top in any significant number?
Not really, according to the Election Commission’s data.
Although the number of woman representatives is increasing, it has been growing at a snail’s pace. In all the five states—Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand—the maximum percentage of woman lawmakers in the outgoing Assemblies is not more than 10 per cent.
Over the years, there have been instances where not even a single woman made it to an Assembly. And the percentage of women who were given tickets in these states barely went above 5 per cent.
How do women politicians fare in UP, the state which has given our country its first and only woman prime minister?
During the state’s first Assembly elections in 1951, twenty women were in the fray in 347 constituencies and only five won. In 1957, 18 out of the 40 women contestants, made it to the Assembly.
So, did the number of woman lawmakers in UP increase in the following years? No. For example, in the 1967 elections only six of the 39 women won. The present outgoing Assembly has 35 women, the highest in the state’s history. The second highest was in 1985, when 31 women won. From 1985 to 2011, the number of woman lawmakers actually dipped.
In Punjab, which goes to polls on Feb. 4, only eight of the 202 candidates who contested in 1967 (the first election after reorganisation of PEPSU) were women. And only two made it to the Assembly. In 1969, not even one of the eight women who contested won. Like UP, the present Punjab’s outgoing Assembly has the highest number (14) of women lawmakers in the history of the state, the first time the number went into double figures.
The situation is not very different in the Northeast. Only in 1990 did Manipur have its first woman lawmaker. The present outgoing Assembly has the highest number of women lawmakers. That’s all of three out of 60.
In Goa, in 1967, of the 226 candidates in the fray, the state had a lone woman contender—K S Gurudatt of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party. And she won. In the next elections, although six women contested, none of them won. The highest number of woman lawmakers the state has seen is just four, and that was in 1994. In the 2012 elections, only 10 of the 215 contestants were women—and only one won.
Against that backdrop, is the representation of women going to increase in the upcoming polls? The percentage of women fielded by major parties is barely 10 per cent. BSP has nominated only 18 women in UP, a mere 4 per cent. The chances are that the representation of women will continue to be less than the glass ceiling of 10 per cent.