Even as the buzz around names of probable Maharashtra chief ministerial candidates from various parties grows, the list does not include a single woman leader. Electoral trends from the three previous state polls show that women politicians have not even received adequate representation in the assembly.
The strength of women in the 288-member lower house has remained stagnant at 11-12 legislators for the past 15 years. The reason being women have been only 4.2% to 5.9% of the total candidates contesting the polls.
With the high-stakes Maharashtra assembly polls about a month away, HT did a scrutiny of data from the last three assembly polls – 1999, 2004 and 2009 – which revealed that political parties, including Congress, NCP, BJP and Shiv Sena, have been handing out limited tickets to women leaders.
Despite having implemented the 50% reservation for women in local self-government bodies such as civic corporations, the four main political parties have together not given more than 25 to 35 seats to women politicians in the three elections. And, this has little to do with their chances of winning.
In 1999, of the 2,006 total candidates, only 86 were women, with 25 from the four big parties. In the 2009 polls, the total number of candidates increased to 3,348 and there were 211 women who were given tickets. The four big parties had 35 women candidates. The Congress, in 2009, had 14 women in their 170 candidates, highest in the last 15 years. However, it still is just 8.2%.
Statistics reflect the onground situation in all parties, with only handful of women in top rung leadership roles. In the past, the Congress has had three women as state presidents – Premalakaki Chavan (mother of CM Prithviraj Chavan), Pratibha Patil and Prabha Rau – but the party no longer has women in the top rung state leadership.
In t he Shiv Sena, MLC Neelam Gorhe is the only senior woman leader in party’s power circle, while in the NCP, it is party chief Sharad Pawar’s daughter and MP Supriya Sule, who is among the top leaders.
In the BJP, late Gopinath Munde’s daughter Pankaja is being considered as one of the top leaders of the party in Maharashtra.
“Sainiks are both men and women. In several local self-government bodies, we have promoted women. But, I agree that women face politics of exclusion across many decisionmaking levels. It happens not only in all political parties, but also in the private sector,” said Gorhe.
“Even today, accepting women’s leadership is difficult for many male counterparts. Unless the change comes from the society and it becomes difficult for parties to reject aspiring women leaders, statistics in the assembly polls will not be radically different.”
Across political parties, there is a greater clamour for women politicians to contest the upcoming polls. In the Congress, women party workers have even protested against the bias at the recently concluded candidate interviews.
However, it remains to be seen if political parties give women leaders a chance to prove their mettle.