Lok Sabha Election 2019: Women in Bihar seek bigger stake in polls
Their share at higher level still not good, though they now form over 50% of panchayat membersUpdated: Mar 12, 2019 13:49 IST
At a time when caste configurations of constituencies and communities often determine the selection of candidates by political parties across the country, women in Bihar offer a new ray of hope with their ability to turn the tide in elections.
Considered caste-neutral, they are emerging as a big vote bank, as their growing participation proved in both 2014 Lakh Sabha polls and 2015 assembly polls in the state. In all five phases of assembly polls in 2015, women voters outnumbered men. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls also, women overtook men in several constituencies.
However, despite the narrowing gender gap in voting, women’s share in electoral politics in Bihar at the higher level is still not encouraging, though they now constitute over 50% of the elected representatives in panchayats in the state. In district boards, their percentage is even higher, around 60%.
However, the silver lining is that in Bihar, despite backwardness, women’s representation is higher than many more developed and literate states.
There are currently 61 woman members in the Lok Sabha, up by two compared to 2009 and the highest ever. West Bengal elected the most (14 MPs), followed by UP (13), Jharkhand, Haryana and Meghalay have none. Kerala, J&K and Orissa have one each.
Bihar has three.
RJD MLA Ejya Yadav says growing opportunities for women at the highest level would be the only way to usher in fresh politics. “In the Centre, there is BJP-led government and in Bihar, it is Nitish Kumar. They should take the lead. In Orissa, chief minister Navin Patnaik has taken the lead by announcing 33% quota in allocation of seats for Lok Sabha polls. Unless women get the opportunity at the top, things can’t change,” she said.
She said that RJD had the maximum number of women 10 MLAs (10). “We hope more women will deliver if given the opportunity. At present, seat allocation is yet to be decided in the Grand Alliance, but all parties should help the cause,” she said.
While women came out to vote in record numbers in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the election results brought only moderate joy for the limited number of women candidates fielded by different political parties, though their winning strike rate was still much better than their male counterparts.
Barely three women could make it to the 16th Lok Sabha from Bihar, one less than 2009 when Bihar sent four woman MPs. This was so despite highest number of 66 women reaching the Lok Sabha from across the country in 2014. Bihar has 40 Lok Sabha seats.
The present Bihar assembly has 11% MLAs from the fairer sex as only 28 of the 272 contesting women could win. It 2010, Bihar elected 34 women to the assembly.
Congress MLA from Begusarai, Amita Bhushan, said that all the parties should come forward to give greater representation to women in electoral politics. Bhushan had unsuccessfully contested 2009 Lok Sabha elections, while her mother Chandrabhanu Devi was elected twice in 1984 and 1989.
“Merely talking about 33% quota is not enough. They should make an honest beginning. Just as they make community and caste-wise categories, why can’t they have one for women? Congress is still better than other parties when it comes to woman participation. Whenever women have got opportunity, they have performed better,” she said.
Echoing similar feelings, first-time MLA Bhawna Jha said the women had shown how they could deliver in panchayats and now it was time to scale up their participation at the higher level of electoral politics. “We keep our fingers crossed,” she said.
Three-time BJP MLA Sukhda Pandey said it was important for women to get involved with the process of decision making and governance and it could happen only when they could get representation in the legislative assemblies, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
“PM Narendra Modi says that women’s empowerment is important for country’s development. Women are more sensitive and have proved themselves whenever they got opportunity. The only thing is that the mindset should change towards women. Winnability will be a factor only when they contest. Now, they are outnumbering men in voting and would certainly dictate choice for candidates also,” she said.
Women in elections
Their representation in Parliament or state assembly over the years has not been encouraging
No. of seats won by women in LS polls
2015 - 28
First Published: Mar 12, 2019 13:49 IST