The percentage of women candidates in the five poll-bound states has fallen compared to the 2008 figures, even though a B-school study shows the number of women voters is increasing gradually.
Data collected by the Election Commission of India and the Association for Democratic Reforms, a civil society poll watchdog, shows only 7% of the 7,000-odd contestants in the Delhi, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh assembly polls in 2013 are women.
In 2008, as many as 7,520 candidates contested the elections in these states. The percentage of women voters stood at 8%.
A shocker comes from Delhi, which has 51 lakh women residents and a woman chief minister at the helm since 1998.
Just 17 women candidates are in the fray for the upcoming assembly polls slated for December 4. In 2008, 81 women candidates contested the Delhi elections.
The Congress — Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit’s party — has fielded more women candidates in the Capital compared to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Aam Aadmi party (AAP).
The Congress has six women candidates in Delhi this year. The AAP and the BJP have four and three women aspirants, respectively. The rest are contesting either as independents or from smaller parties.
“There are not many applications from women,” said a Congress leader.
A BJP leader added that “winnability” of a candidate was important; and not the gender.
Ranjana Kumari, director of non-governmental organisation Centre for Social Research, said the dwindling number of women candidates points at the bias towards women in big political parties.
“The Women’s Reservation Bill pending in the Parliament is the only road to political empowerment of women.”
Things are slightly better in the other states.
In Chhattisgarh, where the two-phase polling ended on November 19, altogether 85 women candidates — nearly 8.5% of the total 986 —were in the fray. The percentage of women contestants stood at 9% in 2008.
Madhya Pradesh, which is going to polls on Monday, has 190 women aspirants as compared to 226 five years ago.
In Mizoram, which goes to polls with MP, there are 2.8% women candidates as compared to 4% in 2008.
But Rajasthan stands tall as an exception. The December 1 elections in the state will see 168 women candidates contesting the poll battle. In 2008, the number stood at 154.
A study by Indian School of Business on voting percentage in assembly polls since the 1960s, however, says the number of women voters is on the rise.
According to it, the number of women voting for every 1,000 men increased from 715 in the 1960s to 883 in 2008.