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A re-iteration of sexism in Indian politics

india Updated: Apr 09, 2009 16:32 IST

The first phase of polling for the 2009 Lok Sabha election will take place exactly one week from now. And a total of 122 women candidates will contest from the 124 parliamentary constituencies going to polls on 16 April. Nothing extraordinary about this piece of information, except that the number of male candidates in the fray for the first phase is about 13 times that of the number of women contestants! Thus, among the 1715 candidates contesting, 1593 - a whopping 93 per cent of the total candidates, are men, according to data released by the Election Commission of India. (http://www.pib.nic.in/elections2009/default.asp)

If we look at national parties, the picture is both startling and dismal. The best (if we can call it that) performance with respect to giving tickets to women is that of the Nationalist Congress Party or NCP, whose candidate list has close to an abysmally low 22 per cent women, followed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI (M) with 13 per cent women. (see table at the end of the post)

Congress and BJP both have less than 10 per cent women (of their total candidates) contesting in the first phase while the Communist Party of India or CPI has no woman candidate. Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party or BSP has just around 7 per cent women contesting out of the total number of candidates. So much for woman power!

The highest number of female contestants is in Andhra Pradesh (25 out of 315), followed by Bihar (21 out of 223). But these are merely absolute figures and if we look at the proportion of women candidates to the total number of seats in the state going to polls or the total number of candidates in the fray, the picture might be different.

The pathetically small number of women that have been given tickets by these parties is not just undemocratic but also a reflection of their hypocrisy when it comes to women empowerment. All these parties have spoken about schemes for women emancipation in their manifestos but clearly, they do not believe in implementing what they advocate. The highest proportion of women to total candidates is a deplorable 22 per cent (NCP), not even one fourth of the total number.

All those who give examples of Indira Gandhi or the current ‘goddesses' of India politics like Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati and Jayalalithaa to demonstrate how women are an equally powerful constituent of India politics, just need to run through these figures which reflect the true picture. A few powerful women at top do not make Indian democracy or politics representative. The idea is to allow this power to percolate down and spread across the spectrum.

CPM's Brinda Karat leaves no stone unturned to blame the government (which her party, by the way, supported for over four years!) for not getting the 33 per cent Women's Reservation Bill passed in Parliament. Ms Karat and Co., however, can help the cause by giving more tickets to women in their own party instead of blaming others for a situation they are equally responsible for. And this stands true for all political parties across the country.

In the 14

th
Lok Sabha, there were less than 9 per cent women MPs, a figure so miserably low that it speaks for itself.

Unfortunately, the fate of the Women's Reservation Bill has absolutely nothing to do with logistics or technicalities of the bill. It is merely about the sincerity (or lack of it) and intention of political parties. If all parties start giving out at least 40 per cent of their tickets to women, one wouldn't even need the 33 per cent Reservation Bill.

It is really not about passing a bill that would give 33 per cent reservation to women in Parliament. It is about changing the very feudal and patriarchal mindset so deeply entrenched in our society.

And by the way, don't worry about the ‘winnability' of women candidates; with adequate support from political parties and a fair chance to contest, they would do as well as their male counterpart...the Mayawatis, Sonia Gandhis and Jayalalithaas of Indian politics provide adequate proof.

National Party

Total candidates

Male

Women

% Of Women to Total Candidates

BJP

102

93

9

8.82

BSP

111

103

8

7.21

CPM

23

20

3

13.04

Congress

111

100

11

9.91

NCP

14

11

3

21.43

CPI

15

15

0

0.00

RJD

18

16

2

11.11