Modi Sarkar 2.0: Only 3 Women in Cabinet Despite Most Women MPs
Of the newly elected Lok Sabha, 78 are women MPs. But only 3 women were sworn in as Union ministers in the new govt.
Six women ministers took oath in the new PM Modi government on Thursday — two less than in 2014. These six women included three women who took oath as Union ministers, namely Amethi MP Smriti Irani, former defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal from Shiromani Akali Dal.
But the representation of women ministers in the Cabinet doesn't reflect the landmark number of women MPs in the 2019 Lok Sabha.
Of the newly elected Lok Sabha, 14.6% of the MPs are women, ie 78. This is the highest-ever representation of women in the Lok Sabha. Yet, only three women find themselves sworn in as Union ministers, making up 12% of the new Cabinet.
More Women MPs, Less Representation in Govt
The number of women MPs elected to the Lok Sabha have steadily increased in India since 1952. In the first Lok Sabha elections in 1952, 5% of elected MPs or 24 MPs were women. Out of these 24 women, only one was given a space in Jawaharlal Nehru's Cabinet — Rajkumari Amrit Kaur.
Apart from the Union Ministers, three women MPs — Fatehpur MP Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Chhattisgarh's Saruja MP Renuka Singh Saruta and West Bengal's Raiganj MP Debashree Chaudhuri — took oath as Ministers of State. For the purposes of analysis, we are looking at women's representation in the Cabinet, considering its executive influence as a decision-making body, since 1952.
In 2014, there were eight women ministers in the Modi government. Sushma Swaraj (Minister of External Affairs), Uma Bharti (Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation), Maneka Gandhi (Minister of Women and Child Development) and Anupriya Patel (Minister of State, Health and Family welfare) are not part of the new council of ministers.
The 2019 Lok Sabha elections were a milestone for women in politics in India. A total of 724 women contested the elections from all over the country. Congress led the charge by fielding 54 candidates, closely followed by BJP who fielded 53 women. Out of the 78 women MPs elected to the Lok Sabha, the highest were from West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.
No Space for the Young Indian Woman?
India is a young country, with the average age of 29 years predicted in 2020. But out of the six new women ministers in the government, the average age is 51 years. The youngest women minister in the new government is 43-year-old Smriti Irani and the oldest is 59-year-old Nirmala Sitharaman. Again, young Indian women, below the age of 40, have no representation in the new government.
As the new government under PM Modi starts its second term, expectations will be on the newly-appointed ministers to fulfil their roles. But in a country where nearly 49% of the population is women, are six women at the highest level of governance enough?
(With inputs from Natasha Lopez)
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