The central election committee of the Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday released its first list of candidates for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The party that is currently ruling the country has shared a list of 184 candidates for parliamentary constituencies from 23 states, of which only 22 candidates are women, including big names like Hema Malini and Smriti Irani. Women form only about 11% of the total list of candidates released as of now by the BJP.

While the number of women candidates is dismal, it is also to be noted that these women are contesting from parliamentary constituencies in 11 states of the total 23 states. These states are Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and West Bengal.

india women and the vote election

The highest number of women candidates fielded by BJP are in West Bengal which is a total number of four women—Deboshree Chaudhary from Raiganj, Sreerupa Mitra Choudhary from Maldaha Dakshin, Locket Chatterjee from Hooghly and Bharati Ghosh from Ghatal. Next in line are UP and Maharashtra with three women candidates each. Sitting MP Hema Malini is contesting again from Mathura, Smriti Irani is also contesting again from Amethi and Sangh Mitra Maurya is contesting from Badaun in UP. From Maharashtra, Dr Heena Vijaykumar Gavit is contesting from Nandurbar (ST), Raksha Nikhil Khadse from Raver and Poonam Mahajan from Mumbai-North-Central.

In Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Kerala and Telangana, BJP’s current list contains two names in all these states each. For now, Chhattisgarh’s women candidacy contains Renuka Singh from Surguja(ST) and Gomtee Sai from Raigarh(ST). Kerala’s women candidacy comprises of Prof. V T Rema from Ponani and Sobha Surendran from Attingal. Odisha has Aparajita Sarangi contesting from Bhubaneswar and Anita Priyadarshni from Aska. Finally D K Aruna from Mahbubnagar and Bangaru Shruthi from Nagarkurnool(SC) in Telangana.

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The first list of candidates contains only one woman candidate each from four states—Assam, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand—for the Lok Sabha elections. These names are Queen Ojha from Gauhati, Shobha Karandlaje from Udupi-Chikmagalur, Dr Tamilisai Soundarrajan from Thoothukkudi and Mala Rajya Laxmi from Tehri Garhwal respectively.

What are they bragging about? To say that they have free labour to get them votes but they will never reward them and that those women will perpetually work without reward. Is that the statement you are trying to make? Because when men join your party, they seem to see a career in politics but when women join your party, apparently they don’t have a career path.

Despite tall claims from BJP Mahila Morcha president Vijaya Rahatkar last year that of the total 12 crore members of the BJP, three crore were women, party leaders could not find enough women to even give 33% tickets to women party workers. Political Shakti founder Tara Krishnaswamy spoke to SheThePeople.TV and commented, “What are they bragging about? To say that they have free labour to get them votes but they will never reward them and that those women will perpetually work without reward. Is that the statement you are trying to make? Because when men join your party, they seem to see a career in politics but when women join your party, apparently they don’t have a career path.”

Recently state parties like Odisha’s BJD announced 33% reservation for women candidates in Lok Sabha nominations and West Bengal’s Trinamool Congress announced 41% reservation for women. In times when there are parties who are setting an example by giving representation to women, why is it that national parties still seem to lack will? Even Congress has named 17 women candidates out of the list of around 146 nominations for Lok Sabha elections.

Krishnaswamy noted, “National parties are extremely patriarchal and paternalistic. This is what centralization does and this is exactly why democracy and centralization don’t go well together. The more you decentralize, the more diversity and bottom-to-top inputs you have which is how participative democracy should be. This is why at panchayat-level, there are many more reservation for women could be passed earlier. Even within parties, there are more women at lower levels like district-unit heads, city-heads etc. but when it goes to positions like state general secretary level, national president etc. women just disappear—it’s is very similar to corporate hierarchy.”

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