Indian women and General Election

Indian political parties are yet to field reasonably numbers of women in country's most vibrating process of Democracy- General Election. Whether this is due to conservative approach of the political parties and indifference of the women in general but the fact remains that Indian women have a long way to go if the number of female contestants for the first two phase of the General Elections 2004 is of any indication.

For example, in Andhra Pradesh, out of a total of 279 candidates in the fray for the 42 Lok Sabha seats, only 21 are women. The maximum number of women candidates, 3, is in the Khammam Lok Sabha constituency where 6 men are also contesting. Interestingly, Cuddapah, where the highest number of 15 candidates have thrown their hats in the ring, does not have a single woman contestant. In fact, as many as 25 constituencies in Andhra Pradesh, 25, there is not a single woman candidate in the poll race.

Maharashtra's track record in respect of women contestants is similar -- only 29 of the 412 candidates contesting the 48 Lok Sabha seats, belong to the fair sex. In as many as 27 of the 48 parliamentary constituencies which is more than half -- not a single woman candidate is in the fray. Pune with the highest number of 22 contestants has just one woman candidate whereas Chimur, the constituency with the second highest number of candidates in the State, 15, does not have any candidate of the fair sex.

In Karnataka, 172 candidates are trying their luck for the 28 Lok Sabha seats. But only 10 contestants are women. 18 constituencies do not have any woman candidate while the rest have one candidate each. Gulbarga Lok Sabha constituency has the highest number of 11 candidates who are all men.

Gujarat may have been the State where the participation of women in the cooperative movement set an example for the rest of the country but when it comes to women contesting elections, the scene is no different from the other States. For the 26 Lok Sabha seats in the State, 151 of the 162 candidates are men -- only 11 women are in the fray. As many as 17 constituencies do not have any woman candidate. Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat has the highest number of 13 candidates but they are all male.

Of the 182 candidates fighting for the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand, only 13 are women. Four constituencies have male candidates only. The highest number of candidates, 19, are in Dhanbad and Ranchi but while the former has three women contestants, the latter does not have any.

In Chhattisgarh, of the 102 candidates fighting it out for the 11 Lok Sabha seats in the State, 12 are women. Four constituencies do not have any female candidate. Janjgir parliamentary constituency which has the maximum number of 16 candidates in the fray, also has the largest number of women candidates, 4, in any constituency in the State.

Goa has 2 Lok Sabha seats but there is only one woman candidate among the 16 contestants.

Manipur also has 2 Lok Sabha seats -- of the 12 contestants in the fray, there is only one woman candidate. Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura and Daman & Diu have 2, 1, 2 and 1 seats respectively but do not have any female candidate in the poll race. Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Dadra & Nagar Haveli have one Lok Sabha seat each and one female candidate each.

In Uttar Pradesh, 32 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats are going to the polls in the second phase. There are 378 male contestants while the number of female candidates stands at 14. As many as 17 parliamentary constituencies do not have any female candidates and except for Rai Bareli where two women are contesting, all the other constituencies have one woman candidate each.

In Bihar, a total of 329 candidates are in the race for 28 out of the 40 Lok Sabha seats going to the polls in the first two phases. While the number of male contestants is 322, only seven women are in the fray.

Jammu & Kashmir has six Lok Sabha seats of which three are going to the polls in the first two phases. Only three of the 46 candidates in the fray are women. Jammu parliamentary constituency has a maximum of 27 candidates but there is only one female contestant. Baramullah seat does not have any female candidate.

* With inputs from Press Information Bureau, Government of India

Posted on April 24, 2004

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