The recently concluded Himachal Pradesh Assembly Elections have raised concerns about women's representation in politics as only one woman MLA will be a part of the upcoming 68-member state assembly. While 24 female candidates ran for the elections this time, their performance was not up to the mark, and only one of them – Reena Kashyap of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) – was elected from the Pachhad constituency.
While the BJP fielded six female candidates, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Congress fielded five and three women candidates, respectively. In comparison to the 2022 assembly elections, in 2017, four women candidates won seats in the assembly elections.
Sarveen Chaudhary, minister of social justice and empowerment and four-time MLA from Shahpur in Kangra; Asha Kumari, senior Congress leader and six-time MLA from Dalhousie, who ran for chief minister; Rita Dhiman, BJP MLA from Indora, and Champa Thakur, daughter of longtime Congress leader Kaul Singh, from Mandi, were among those who lost the November 12 elections.
Fifty Per Cent Voters Were Women
Of the total Himachal Pradesh population that was eligible to vote, only 65.92 per cent of voters practised their right to franchise, reports The Times of India. Of all the eligible women, 76.8 per cent used their right to vote, whereas 72.4 per cent of men of those eligible to vote showed up at the voting booths.
Of the overall voter turnout, women voters comprised 49 per cent, showing that while more and more women are willing to participate in the democratic process, not many women candidates are on the receiving end of these votes.
Alarmingly Low Number Of Female Candidates
Since 1967, the state has had fifteen assembly elections,, and only 43 women were elected. While political parties try to woo women, voters, by offering them social welfare schemes, the state sees a pattern of gender bias when it comes to women candidates, as not many women have been elected in the last 55 years.
However, as per a report by NDTV, of the 43 women who have been elected to the assembly so far, nine women have won multiple times, bringing down the number of women who actually entered the assembly as MLA to 20. The report says that Senior Congress leader Vidya Stokes was an eight-time winner, Asha Kumari a six-time winner, Sarveen Chaudhary a four-time winner, Viplov Thakur, Chandresh Kumari and Shyama Sharma three-time winners, and Anita Verma, Urmil Thakur and Krishana Mohini two-time winners.
While no woman candidate won in 1967, only one candidate won in 1977. In 1972, women candidates made their debut in the running for the assembly elections, and four women – Chandresh Kumari, Sarla Sharma, Lata Thakur and Padma – were elected. The number rose to five after Vidya Stokes was elected from the Theog constituency following the demise of her husband. Three women won the polls in 1982, three in the 1985 mid-term polls, and four in the 1990 polls.
The numbers increased in the 1990s: three women won in 1993 and six in 1998. In the 2000s, four women won the 2003 and five won the 2007 elections.However, the number declined to three in the 2012 polls, rose to four in 2017, and has now drastically declined to one in 2022.
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