Assam Election women candidates: As the Assam assembly election 2021 nears its end, with polls closing on April 6 after three phases, a look back at the entire process reveals an abysmal disparity. That of the crevice in numbers between the voting population and candidates rolling out manifesto-contained promises for them. Almost half of the voter base in Assam is constituted by women, but where are the candidates representing them?
Data collected shows 49.35 percent of voters in Assam are female and have been coming out in huge numbers to exercise their franchise during the two completed phases of the election. The first round of polls saw females trumping male voters with 76.07 percent votes cast over 75.79 percent. In the second phase, they followed close behind at 80.94 percent while men marked 81 percent attendance.
And what about the other side of the table? Persons for whom the electorate is voting for? Women feature at a low 74 in the 946-strong candidate fray across parties. That makes for only 7.82 percent of the total pool.
More Pomp, No Show: What's Behind The Low Representation?
Singularly, no prominent party has given tickets to women in double digits. Where the Indian National Congress (INC) is fielding nine women, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is backing seven. Their alliances too are fielding no more than one or two women at maximum. Even newer, independent parties like the Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) show similar trends with seven women candidates.
This, after political leaders have been rallying lofty promises surrounding women's issues in the state. Congress, for instance, in its manifesto vowed to commit monthly incomes of Rs 2000 for all female homemakers as well as hikes in remunerations for tea plantation workers. During her campaign, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra even iterated the latter by meeting female tea garden workers and symbolically plucking leaves with them.
Amit Shah too has brought focus to BJP's attention to women in their Assam manifesto, with promises of free transport and maternity leaves for plantation workers. More here.
Assam Election Women Candidates Drop In Numbers: A Worrying Reality?
Even as women's rights groups in the state rallied behind equal representation of women in politics - with a Women’s Manifesto 2021 that demanded 33 percent reservation for women in assembly and Parliament, 10 percent reservation for the LGBTQIA community and provisions for women with disabilities - the foundational numbers itself remain alarmingly low.
Low representation of women is consistent across poll-bound states, the highest only figuring in Bengal where Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress (TMC) has fielded 17 percent women on their candidate list. See their names here. Over in Kerala, Congress' Lathika Subhash tonsured her head in protest that the party didn't give space to even 20 percent women candidates.
Are women being given adequate voice and representation in Indian politics?
But what's perhaps more worrisome is that the trend of Assam election women candidates looks to be tracing a disturbed trajectory. Data suggests that 85 women contested assembly elections in 2011, increasing to 91 candidates in 2016, and now dropping down to lower than recent numbers at 74. Prominent names from them include Pranati Phukan, Bismita Gogoi and Nandita Das from Congress, and Nandita Gorlosa and Ajanta Neog from BJP.
With a lack of women in decision-making seats, how far will promises towards women's issues come to fruition? Do efforts towards women's upliftment on a larger scale ring hollow when the cornerstone of representation itself is deficient?