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Hundreds of politicians are trying their luck to win Lok Sabha constituencies through the support of national parties, state parties and regional parties. However, independent candidates also occupy a significant share in the total number of people contesting the election this year and independent women candidates form a fraction of this share. Women from different backgrounds like activists, politicians, advocates, housewives, professors, etc. have filed their nominations.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Thirty independent women candidates contested in Lok Sabha elections in Phase one.
  • The most number of independent candidates won was 42 seats out of 533 who had contested in 1957
  • Difficulties around Dalit people’s lives in Gujarat and Hasumati Sarvakar’s struggle to contesting in the election to take up Dalit issues in Lok Sabha.
  • Pondicherry and Andaman and Nicobar both have a single seat in the Lok Sabha with a total of eight and nine independents respectively. Of these numbers, one in each is a woman.

DECLINING PERCENTAGE OF INDEPENDENT PARLIAMENTARIANS

Women politicians have contested elections independently earlier too, including the 30 women independent candidates in the first phase. However, they mostly remain ignored. Also, the fact that independent candidates have a negligible chance to actually win a seat with an average success rate of 0.49%, it doesn’t help either.

A News 18 report quotes that only been six times since the first Lok Sabha election in 1957 that the Independent candidates won parliamentary seats in two digits. The most number of independent candidates won was 42 seats out of 533 who had contested in 1957 itself. The last time independent candidates won seats in two digits was the 1989 election.

The probability of winning may not be very high, but that doesn’t deter women to nominate themselves and contest elections with limited means. These women don’t wait for parties to give them a ticket but when they think that they can bring a change in the society, they stand for it—even if it means that they have to do it all by themselves.

WOMEN EQUIPPED TO JOIN PARLIAMENT

Social worker Aishwarya Salgaonkar, who is contesting from North Goa constituency spoke to SheThePeople.TV and said, “Like we take care of our houses, children and we also go out and earn money then why women cannot join politics? If we find faults in our society then it is our duty to join the parliament and work towards resolving our issues. Here in North Goa, big parties have fielded candidates who don’t even belong to North Goa then why should people choose somebody, who doesn’t have a grip on the ground realities of this place?”

Independent female candidate
Aishwarya Salgaonkar in a campaign rally, PC: Aishwarya Salgaonkar

Salgaonkar claims to have worked with Congress for 14 years but quit the party recently to contest the election independently. She also said that she has worked with the Goa State Human Rights Commission. North Goa goes to poll on April 23 and the poll results will be out on May 23.

ALSO READ: Congress’ Claim To Reserve Lok Sabha Seats For Women Mere Rhetoric?

ISSUE-BASED POLITICS

What is common among these independent women candidates is that they all see issues within the social fabric and they want to work towards eliminating these issues. Advocate Hasumati Sarvakar, who practices in Patan Session Court, is contesting from Patan, Gujarat. Several times during our conversation with her, she reiterated about how difficult Dalit people’s lives are in her village and that she is contesting in the election to take up Dalit issues in Lok Sabha.

She belongs to the scheduled caste community and says, “The seats reserved for SC and ST are occupied majorly by candidates of big parties. I want to prove to these parties that Dalit women can fight from any seat independently.”

She referred to the Una violence incident which happened in Gujarat in 2016 and said that there are more villages around Patan where Dalits have had to move to different places because of untouchability still continuing in our society. “Dalits don’t get any justice here then Dalit women get even more harassed because of sexual assault. They don’t even speak up on the face of injustice because they believe there is no point in raising their voices. I want to change their thinking and I want them to see me as their voice. It is only when they see someone from their own community representing them, they will believe that real change can happen,” said Sarvakar.

Independent women candidates
Hasumati Sarvakar with her supporters PC: Hasumati Sarvakar

In July 2016, seven members of a Dalit family were attacked by members of higher castes on the pretext of cow protection. The incident went viral on social media raising questions on Dalit discrimination and caste-based atrocities.

Current political parties aren’t up to the mark. They just give tickets to whoever is able to spend more money in the election. We are not able to present our views anywhere which is why I am standing in the election this time

POLITICAL PARTIES DISAPPOINTING

Pondicherry and Andaman and Nicobar both have a single seat in the Lok Sabha with a total of eight and nine independents respectively. Of these numbers, one in each is a woman — Tiravitamankai Lourdhumary from Pondicherry and Minati Biswas from Andaman and Nicobar Islands. They both are of the opinion that they aren’t represented well in the parliament. While Lourdhumary said, “Current political parties aren’t up to the mark. They just give tickets to whoever is able to spend more money in the election. We are not able to present our views anywhere which is why I am standing in the election this time,” Biswas was with the BJP earlier but when she saw that the party denied her a ticket, she went ahead and filed her nomination independently.

Independent female candidate
Picture Credit: Minati Biswas

She said, “I should also get a chance to do something for the public.” On how she decides to do canvassing for her candidature, she said, “one actually does not require much funds to run for election. We only need money to file nomination but it is the bigwigs who can gather lots of party fund who have destroyed it for all of us.”

These women and several others like them who are contesting this year in the general election are all champions in their own rights. They fight their circumstances, have limited means and yet prosper a dream to win a seat in the parliament.

More Stories by Poorvi Gupta

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