Lok Sabha polls: Women struggle to scale mountain of gender bias in Himachal - Hindustan Times
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Lok Sabha polls: Women struggle to scale mountain of gender bias in Himachal

By, Dharamshala
May 19, 2024 07:16 AM IST

Leading the rather dismal number is Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Kangana Ranaut, who recently filed her nomination from Mandi parliamentary constituency. The other two female candidates are Rekha Chaudhary of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), contesting from Kangra seat, and an independent from Mandi.

Only three candidates of Himachal’s total 37 contesting the Lok Sabha elections, the first major election since the lawmakers passed the historic Women’s Reservation Bill, 2023, in September last year, are women.

Only three candidates of Himachal’s total 37 contesting the Lok Sabha elections, the first major election since the lawmakers passed the historic Women’s Reservation Bill, 2023, in September last year, are women. (HT File)
Only three candidates of Himachal’s total 37 contesting the Lok Sabha elections, the first major election since the lawmakers passed the historic Women’s Reservation Bill, 2023, in September last year, are women. (HT File)

Leading the rather dismal number is Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Kangana Ranaut, who recently filed her nomination from Mandi parliamentary constituency.

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The other two female candidates are Rekha Chaudhary of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), contesting from Kangra seat, and an independent from Mandi.

The Women’s Reservation Bill was the first legislation discussed in the new Parliament building. The bill, passed with near unanimity, mandates a 33% quota for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. While it also received the President’s assent last year, it won’t come into effect until 2029 after the next delimitation exercise, based on figures from the next census, is carried out.

The Congress has not fielded any female candidates in the four constituencies in Himachal Pradesh. In 2019, neither the Congress nor the BJP fielded any female candidates during the elections. The former party’s state unit chief Pratibha Singh, however, was elected to the Parliament from Mandi in a bypoll.

Women constitute around 49% of the total voters in Himachal — 27,97,209 of the total 56,45,545.

Harish Kumar Thakur of the Himachal Pradesh University’s political science department, said, “Indian political parties have not come out of conventional approach of fielding male and influential candidates and women reservation at panchayat level has not yet reflected strong women leadership at the state level. That is part of why the women’s representation appears to be negligible.”

“Even the women have not shown great interest in political affairs because of the patriarchal nature of Indian society. Political parties should give more space to women because they are more transparent and honest to perform duties,” he said, adding that they should get equal representation in parliament and state assemblies.

Voters, however, perceive the current situation poorly. Sonakshi Sandhu, a first-time voter from Kangra, said, “I think political parties should give more space to women candidates. The perception that women are not interested in politics will only change if they are given opportunities to climb the political ladder.”

A royal connection

Only three women have made it to the Lok Sabha from the hill state. Notably, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Chandresh Kumari and Pratibha Singh, the three successful candidates all belonged to “royal” families.

Amrit Kaur, India’s first health minister belonged to the royal family of Kapurthala. She was elected to the Lok Sabha from Mandi in 1952. No woman received a ticket until 1984, when Chandresh Kumari of the Jodhpur royal family, married into Himachal, was fielded by the Congress from Kangra and won.

Pratibha Singh, wife of former chief minister Virbhadra Singh, unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha polls in 1998, but won in 2004 when her husband was the chief minister. In 2009, Virbhadra won from Mandi, but resigned in 2012 to become the CM again, and Pratibha won the by-election in 2013. She lost to BJP’s Ram Swaroop in 2014. After the death of Ram Swaroop, who had won from Mandi again in 2019, in March 2021, Pratibha won the by-election in November 2021.

Virbhadra and Praitbha’s son, Vikramaditya Singh, is contesting from the Mandi seat, taking on Kangana Ranaut.

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