The number of women candidates fighting the upcoming parliamentary polls in the northeast has increased from seven in 2004 to 18 this time, although just three of the women candidates have been fielded by national parties.
There are a total of 218 candidates for the 24 Lok Sabha seats from the seven northeastern states. Of the 18 women candidates in the fray, one each has been fielded by the national parties - the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), while the remaining are either candidates put by regional parties or are independents.
Interestingly, despite women's participation in politics being negligible in the northeast, the number of women voters is more than their male counterparts in Manipur, Meghalaya, and Mizoram.
Among the 18 women aspirants, eleven are from Assam followed by three each in Manipur and Meghalaya and one in Tripura.
Former central minister and BJP candidate in Assam's Guwahati constituency Bijoya Chakraborty, 70, is the oldest woman candidate, while 28-year-old Agatha K. Sangma - the NCP candidate from Tura constituency of Meghalaya - is the youngest.
Agatha, the daughter of former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A. Sangma, told IANS she would "fight tooth and nail" for passing the long pending Women's Reservation Bill in parliament.
Of the seven women candidates who contested the 2004 elections, none had got elected, while six had even forfeited their security deposits.
"Although we talk about equal participation of men and women in the parliamentary system of democracy, in reality we find political parties actually biased against women when it comes to providing them tickets to contest the polls," said Fulan Bhattacharjee, a woman activist and political analyst.