Less number of Women Candidates contesting elections in 2024
A Voter Shows Her Inked Finger. Image Courtesy | ECI

Poor Representation Of Women Candidates In Elections Continues

"Reserving seats alone is not enough as there is a need for a cultural shift where women are seen as leaders and decision-makers"

April 29, 2024

In the first two phases of the seven-phased Lok SabhLok Sabhaa polls, women candidates constituted only 8 percent of the total candidates- something that is hard to digest when the BJP-led NDA government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been sloganeering on women empowerment and increasing women representatives in the Parliament and the Assembly.

In fact, the number is even more shocking because the 8% of women representatives are way below the 33% seat reservation for women that the Saffron party mostly talks about in its election rallies or during speeches from the Red Fort.

It may be mentioned here that in the first two phases of the polls, 2,823 candidates are in the fray. In the first phase, on April 19, 2024, 1,625 candidates are in the fray, while 1,198 candidates are in the fray in the 2nd phase.

There are 135 women candidates in the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections, whereas only 100 are in the second phase, bringing the combined total for the first two phases to 235.

According to political pundits, the mere 8% women representation reflects a deeper issue of gender bias, and that talk of women’s empowerment rings hollow.

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Of the 135 women candidates in the first phase, Tamil Nadu had the highest share at 76. However, that figure accounted for just 8 percent of the total candidates in the state.

Kerala had the maximum number of women candidates at 24 in the second phase. Party-wise, the Congress fielded 44 women in the two phases and the BJP 69.

This significant gender imbalance has sparked criticism from political analysts and activists, who asked why parties are waiting for the Women's Reservation Act to be implemented instead of proactively fielding women.

With women constituting nearly half of India’s electorate, their under-representation in the candidate pool raises broader questions about the barriers hindering women’s full participation in the political sphere.

Beyond the symbolic gestures and promises, the importance of structural reforms to ensure equal opportunities for women in politics is something that needs to be delved into deeply. The party leadership should play a critical role in promoting gender diversity.

Every political party must prioritise gender inclusion in candidate selection and adequately support women aspirants.

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Political experts believe that the issue of women’s political representation extends beyond numerical quotas to encompass systemic changes in party dynamics and electoral processes.

Well, amid all these biases and underrepresentation of women, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha is the only party that, as a policy, provides 33 percent of tickets to women.

Meera Parida, state vice-president of the BJD’s Biju Mahila Dal, stressed the need for substantive action in women’s empowerment and praised her party’s initiative of reserving 33 percent of seats for women.

Advocating comprehensive reforms, she stressed that reserving seats alone is not enough as there is a need for a cultural shift where women are seen as leaders and decision-makers.

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