As the 2024 Lok Sabha elections are fast approaching, national parties are in the process of strategising the ideal candidate to represent them in different constituencies. As the demand for women's representation and younger faces in politics is looming, all eyes are on the potency of the Women's Reservation Bill which promises 33% of Lok Sabha and State Assembly seats for women. Recently, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Aditanath announced that the Bill will be implemented across the State soon. "After this Act, no political party can stop women from reaching the legislative assemblies and Parliament," the BJP leader added.
The five-State Assembly elections in 2023 put a spotlight on women through targeted campaigns and schemes; but when it came to candidacy, this enthusiasm was dimmed. The results of the State elections, however, highlight how parties could benefit by putting women at the forefront in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Women-Centric Campaigns In State Elections
Both parties took notice of the increase in the number of women voters in the Assembly elections and systemised an array of promises and schemes pivoting on women's empowerment. The parties put a focus on grassroots-level campaigning, providing necessities to less-privileged households with women.
These included promises for subsidised cooking gas and ration, annual allowance for girl children, monthly aid for households led by women, pensions for women senior citizens, reservations for women in government jobs, smartphones for women, gold from brides, and more. The parties also held all-women rallies and campaigns.
The BJP won in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh; while the Congress swept to victory in Telangana and Zorem People's Party won over the voters in Mizoram.
Meagre Women's Candidacy
Women candidates of the BJP and Congress contested for less than 12% of seats in the 2023 assembly elections in five States, as reported by Hindustan Times. This came two months after the Women’s Reservation Bill was passed by the Parliament.
While the BJP has been widely praised for the 128th amendment of the Constitution, Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam 2023, the party had only 11.7% of women candidates contesting in the elections. The Congress claims credit for the women’s reservation bill, having introduced it in 2010 during Manmohan Singh’s rule; but they too had only 10.8% of women candidates.
Out of the total of 679 seats in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram, the women were contesting 80 seats from the BJP, and 74 seats from the Congress.
According to a recent study by Chunaav, a Gurgaon-based political consultancy firm, women constitute only 15% of the Indian parliament. The report revealed that out of the 543 parliamentary constituencies in India, as few as 78 are held by women as per the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
Out of the 303 seats won by Bharatiya Janata Party in 2019, 41 were won by a female candidate. In the case of Congress, only 6 women candidates were able to secure a win out of the 52 seats won by INC in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
How Women Fared In Five States
Women constituted 2.51 crore eligible voters this year. Out of the 200 seats, the BJP fielded 20 women candidates, and the Congress fielded 28 women candidates. However, the results displayed the voters' inclination toward women candidates.
Diya Kumari of Vidhaydhar Nagar constituency won the seat of the second Deputy Chief Minister. Kumari won over 1 lakh votes just like former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, who won from Jhalrapatan. Nine out of the 115 winning candidates in Rajasthan are women. Meanwhile, in the Congress, nine out of the 69 winners are women; and two independent candidates, Dr Ritu Baanawat and Dr Ritu Chowdhary have also emerged victorious.
Three women were elected to be MLAs; the first time more than one woman candidate has been elected in the State. Lalrinpuii and Baryl Vanneihsangi were elected from the winning ZPM and Pravo Chakma was elected from the outgoing Mizo National Front. The last woman leader to be elected was Vanlalawmpuii Chawngthu, who was elected in a 2014 by-election. Chawngthu was inducted as a junior minister in the former Congress government in 2017.
The State had two women contestants from the Congress and four from the BJP. The state recorded that female eligible voters (4,39,028) outnumbered males (4,13,064) this year. 81.21% of women cast their vote, as compared to 75.79% of men.
In the 230-seat assembly, the BJP fielded 28 women in the State and the Congress had 30 women contestants. The results showed that 21 out of the 163 BJP winning candidates are women, including Gayatri Raje Pawar of the Dewas seat, and Archana Didi of the Burhanpur constituency. Similarly, in the Congress, there are five women among 65 other winners.
In Chhattisgarh's 90-seat assembly, 14 women were contesting from the BJP and three were from Congress. The State boasts the highest number of women MLAs in the country, with nine out of the 54 winning BJP candidates being women this year.
Laxmi Rajwade won from Bhatgaon with over 1 lakh votes, while Lata Usendi won from Kondagaon with over 80,000 votes. A total of 11 women candidates from Congress have won and account for almost one-third of its 35 winning candidates.
For the 119-member assembly of Telangana, the BJP had fielded 14 women candidates and the Congress had fielded 11. The results in this State are lacklustre for women candidates, compared to the others.
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 the BRS, only three are women.
What State Elections 2023 Showed
As assembly election results poured in from the five contesting States, an unmissable trend was noticed where most women candidates emerged successful in their respective constituencies. The results reflect how the proportion of women contestants who won have had a higher vote share than many male candidates, despite low representation by political parties. While women-centric schemes were part of all the parties' agendas this year, the women candidates representing them contested less than 12% of seats.