This 3-part article is written for prajnya.in as part of the Gender Election Watch Project on Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat elections
Earlier this week, I and Dr. Swarna Rajagopalan from Prajnya began to investigate gender statistics on the forthcoming Himachal elections that are due to take place on the 9 November 2017. Subdivided into 12 districts and 68 Assembly Constituencies (ACs), the state will witness a single phase election. Electoral battles are often a face-off between two key national parties – the Indian National Congress (currently led by the incumbent state Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (led by Prem Kumar Dhumal). With little space for a third alternative, voting remains largely restricted between these two parties; both parties assembled a total vote share of 81 percent in the State Assembly elections in 2012 which the Congress won.
An unforgiving observation, however, is the disproportionate gender imbalance in the electoral mechanics. So far, our research has identified merely 15 women candidates from three major parties contesting in the polls – 4 from the Congress, 8 from the BJP and 3 from BSP vis-a-vis a total number of 400-odd male candidates. Although the list expands to 20 when we include independent women candidates, yet the ratio of men to women contestants have remained disproportionate .
|No||Name of the Party||Number of Candidates contesting|
|1||Bahujan Samaj Party||32|
|2||Bharatiya Janata Party||68|
|3||Indian National Congress||68|
|5||All India Trinamool Congress||Data not available|
|6||Nationalist Congress Party||Data not available|
|Total Number of Women candidates||20*|
*Based on nomination data from the Chief Electoral Officer, Himachal Pradesh
In the Himachal state elections since the turn of the century, the number of contesting women candidates contesting have remained roughly around 8 percent. In other words, for every 100 people contesting in an election, there are merely 8 women candidates. Elected women candidates average roughly around 6 percent of the total 68 elected representatives in the Himachal State Legislative Assembly. Interestingly, the figure was the lowest in 2012, when only 3 women candidates were elected alongside 65 male representatives.
This statistic is further intriguing considering how female voting numbers have been traditionally higher over the last three assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh. In 2003, 2007 and in 2012, the percentage of female voters was nearly 75 percent vis-à-vis male voters who were nearly 70-71 percent. Why are parties not fielding more women candidates? The state is yet to see a women Chief Minister.
Where are the women contesting from:
|No||Party||Name of Women Candidates||Place they are contesting from|
|5||BJP||Reeta Devi||Indora (SC)|
|8||BJP||Kamlesh Kumari||Bhoranj (SC)|
|9||BJP||Vijay Jyoti Sain||Kasumpti|
|10||BJP||Shashi Bala||Rohru (SC)|
|12||BJP||Vinod Kumari Chandel||Doon|
|17||Rashtriya Azad Manch||Renuka Dogra||Kullu|
|19||Lok Gathbandan Party||Paro Devi||Sarkaghat|
Does the system discourage women from participating? What seem to be the barriers to entry? We find that reservation for women candidates can encourage more women to contest and win in elections. The results of the Panchayat and Zila Parishad elections – where reservations apply – illustrate this clearly, as a 2015 State report highlighted:
“In Himachal Pradesh there are 3243 Gram Panchayats, out of which 1639(50.54 per cent) seats have been occupied by women in the 2011 Panchayat elections. Out of total seats occupied by women, 987 (60.21 per cent) occupied by general women, 421,(25.68 per cent) scheduled caste women, 104 (6.34 per cent) scheduled tribes women and 127 (7.74 per cent) occupied by OBC women. Similarly, out to total 77 Chairman Panchayat Simities seats, 42 seats (54, 55 percent) of the seats in this category have been occupied by women. Among total seats occupied by women in Chairman Panchayat Simities category, 20 (48 per cent) occupied by general women, 13(31 per cent) by scheduled caste women, 4 (9 per cent) by scheduled tribes women and 5 (12 per cent) occupied by OBC women. Out of the total 12 seats chairpersons of Zila Parisad seats, 6 (50 per cent) of the seats have been occupied by women in 2011 elections.”
End of Part 1. Part 2 will track media coverage of these women candidates, and Part 3 is a post election piece.
Stats calculated based on public available data on candidates, and from previous Election Commission Reports.