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Not many women in House

chandigarh Updated: Sep 15, 2014 14:41 IST
Vishal Joshi
Vishal Joshi
Hindustan Times

If political trends are social indicators, Haryana has miserably failed in giving a fair representation to women.

Sample this: Since its inception in 1966, the highest number of women legislators who made it to the 90-member House was 11 in the 2005 assembly elections. Only one woman representative has occupied the chair of speaker in the last 48 years.

After Haryana attained statehood following the re-organisation of Punjab in November 1966, Shanno Devi of the Congress assumed the office of speaker on December 6, 1966, but only for a brief of nearly three months. She also held the office of deputy speaker of the newly-formed state for 35 days from November 1, 1966.

Lekhwanti Jain was the only woman who held the office of deputy speaker twice. She occupied the office from July 1968 to January 1972 and then from April 1972 to September 1977. No other woman has accomplished this feat in the House.

Political observers call it a deep-rooted patriarchal mindset in society where political parties only offer lip-service on the cause of women empowerment.

Analysts say as Haryana has a skewed sex ratio of 879 girls to 1,000 boys, the bias is also visible in the political arena.

As per former dean of social sciences, Kurukshetra University, Ranbir Singh, there was a trend in Haryana politics that only women who hail from the political families or those who maintain proximity to the influential leaders were fielded in the elections.

“Kailasho Saini, two-time Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) parliamentarian from Kurukshetra (now a Congress leader), is the sole example who has risen through Panchayati Raj Institutions. Haryana has the dubious political history where women are not groomed in active politics,” said Singh, a keen political analyst.

He added that Chandrawati, who, as a Bharatiya Lok Dal candidate, had defeated Congress strongman Bansi Lal from Bhiwani in the post-Emergency parliamentary elections in 1977, was the only woman public figure who went beyond Haryana and served as Lt Governor of Puducherry. She bagged 67.62% votes against Bani Lal.

Chandrawati was the first Haryanvi woman to make it to the assembly of the undivided Punjab in the 1954 elections from the Punjab and East Punjab States Union (Pepsu) seat.

In 1967, when Haryana first went to polls, there were only eight woman candidates in the fray from 81 seats. Out of these, four made it to the assembly.

Later, in 1968 seven women candidates won, while women’s representation was restricted to four in the state elections of 1972 and 1977, when total seats in the Haryana assembly reached to 90, which is unchanged till date.

In 1982, as against 1,068 male candidates in race for the assembly there were only 27 female candidates and seven women managed to enter the House.

Women’s representation in the state assembly in subsequent elections was – 1987 (five), 1991 (six), 1996 and 2000 (four).

In 2005, for the first time they touched the double-digit mark, when 11 women were elected to the assembly but the number came down to nine in the 2009 polls.

SS Chahar, director, Centre for Haryana Studies at Maharshi Dayanand University (MDU), Rohtak, says though women have made a significant contribution to the development of Haryana in Green Revolution and White Revolution, they are seen as voters, not as leaders.

However, he clarified that Haryana was not an exception where women were underrepresented politically. “Be it the neighbouring Punjab, Himachal Pradesh or any other state of India, women are deprived of their political rights. Unless a minimum space is reserved for women under a constitutional provision, the situation will not change,” he said, adding that society needs social and psychological transformation towards women in order to give them their due.