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'Nari, Kispe Bhari?': How Women Candidates Fared Across 4 State Elections

Though, the proportion of women contenders remained abysmally low, an evident push has been observed in some states.

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Women have been the focus of schemes and politics this election season but seldom are they viewed beyond being beneficiaries of welfare schemes. In a year that saw huge emphasis on the Women's Reservation Bill, did the electoral participation see any increase for women? How many candidates won this time?

At a glance, we see that there are 148 candidates from the two major national parties (BJP & Congress) in these four states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana. On Sunday, 3 December, BJP achieved a clear majority in the first three states mentioned while Congress has won in the latter state.

All eyes are also on Mizoram which has not had a woman MLA in years and the results will be out on Monday, 4 December. Counting was still underway at the time of writing this story.

In fact, for all the tall claims on "Nari Shakti" often made by the BJP, only 10 to 15% of its candidates in these five states were women. More or less, the same holds true for other parties that have a pan-India presence.
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Here's the catch, anaylsing the electoral wins this time reflects how the proportion of women who have won the elections have had a higher vote-share than many contemporary male candidates.

Let's take a look.

Rajasthan — Raje & Kumari Win Big

  • Out of BJP's 115 winning candidates, 9 are women.

  • Two important ones among them are former CM Vasundhara Raje who won from Jhalrapatan and MP Diya Kumari emerged victorious from Vidhaydhar Nagar. Both won with over 1 lakh votes.

  • Although Congress lost the state, nine out of 69 winning candidates are women leaders.

  • Two independent candidates, Dr Ritu Baanawat and Dr Ritu Chowdhary have also won their seats.

  • Only 10% of candidates women this year, down from 12% in 2018 elections.

  • Not much change for Congress, as women contenders went from 13.1% (2018) to 14.1% (2023).

It must be noted that Raje who is arguably one of the most prominent faces in the state politics was sidelined through the election season and Kumari has risen steadily, winning from a seat which is said to be another BJP leader Narpat Singh Rajvi's turf.

The outgoing Rajasthan Assembly has 24 women members, 12 of whom are from the Congress, 10 from the BJP, one of the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) and an Independent leader.

The 'Ladli's of Madhya Pradesh

Despite BJP's massive push of welfare schemes like 'Ladli Behna Yojana' to draw in women voters, from a gender lens, there was no big or popular face in the fray.

Twenty-one out of the 163 candidates are women, among these are Umadevi Lalchand Khatik from Hatta and Sampatiya Uikey from Mandla, both of whom have won with over 1 lakh votes.

  • Joining the 1 lakh vote-club are also Gayatri Raje Pawar has bagged the Dewas seat and Archana Didi has won the Burhanpur constituency.

  • Out of the winning 65 candidates of INC, only five women candidates have won.

  • In MP, out of 2,534 candidates, only 253 candidates were women - a marginal change from 2018 when 235 candidates were women.

  • The BJP fielded 28 women and the Congress, 30. In 2018, the corresponding numbers were 24 and 27, respectively.

According to data analyzed from reports by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), none of the major political parties made an effort to have anywhere near 33% women candidates in the elections across these states.

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Chhattisgarh — The One With the Highest Women MLAs

In Chhattisgarh, nine of BJP's 54 winning candidates are women this time. This is a state which since its first election as separate state in 2003 has witnessed a rise in women contestants and elected MLAs.

Chhattisgarh, together with Jharkhand and West Bengal, has the highest proportion of female MLAs among all state assemblies. To be precise, 18% of its lawmakers are women.

  • For BJP, Laxmi Rajwade won from Bhatgaon with over 1 lakh votes, while Lata Usendi won from Kondagaon with over 80,000 votes.

  • Total 11 women candidates of Congress have won and account for almost one-third of its 35 winning candidates.

  • In 2018, Lakshmi Dhruw (INC) from Sihava Constituency won with the highest vote share among the women candidates, at 56%. This time, Congress' Ambika Markam has won by over 84,000 votes.

  • From only five women being elected in 2003, to 16 women being elected in 2018, the state has seen significant increase in the number of women MLAs.

Another factor that plays into the state that several women MLAs have been elected more than once such as Chhattisgarh's former women and child minister and BJP's Lata Usendi from Kondagaon (ST) seat who has reversed her loss in 2018 and 2013.

Telangana's Women MLA Report Card

Telangana is one the poorest when it comes to women MLAs. Ever since it achieved its statehood in 2014, analysis of election data shows there has been a dearth of women candidates, a huge gender gap to bridge electorally.

Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) chief Revanth Reddy had said last month that their party is voted to power in the state, then Telangana will have a fair representation of women and he would bat for four Cabinet berths for women.
  • Out of the 64 winning candidates of Congress, only four out of 11 women candidates have been elected: Laxmi Kantha Rao Thota, Yashaswini Mamidala, Danasari Anasuya Seethakka and Matta Ragamayee.

  • Among 39 winning candidates of BRS, only three are women.

  • During the first legislative assembly in 2014, the proportion of women MLAs was merely 7.6%. Then this percentage declined further to 5% in 2018.

  • In 2018, 136 women filed their nominations, accounting for only 8 percent of the total 1,782 nominations filed.

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The conspicuous absence of women leaders in the state also stems from the limited ticket distribution to women by major political parties.

There were no women ministers in the first elected government of K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) and only in 2019, two women members were added in the cabinet expansion.

Despite the fact that the number of women winning has been declining, the number of women running as candidates in the seats have been consistently rising — from 4.6% in 1962 to 9.7% in 2023.

Hence, the election results paint a clear picture that even though women's role in governance might have been somewhat recognised, achieving a parity in fielding and electing women candidates is still a far-fetched dream.

Besides, a woman's candidature cannot be seen in isolation from their party dynamics, state politics, caste and other local factors, whether it's welfare schemes or a strong Hindutva push in one or more states.

The Women's Reservation Bill which aims to reserve 33% of seats in Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women is believed to be implemented not before 2029, albeit the major political parties have much to think about if they want to actively include more women leaders in the run up to Lok Sabha elections 2024.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  BJP   Congress   Women 

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