Monday Musings: Will reservation bill boost women’s representation from non-political background
Currently, the number is poor at 8 per cent with only 24 MLAs from across Maharashtra representing around 5.4 crore women in a state with having estimated total population of around 12 crores
As the long-pending proposal to reserve seats for women in India’s national and state legislatures clears its way in Parliament, women’s representation in various states is likely to go up substantially by 2029.
While the numbers will definitively improve, the question remains if many of them will be from outside established political families or not.
Let’s look at Maharashtra, considered to be a progressive and industrially developed state. The Women Reservation Bill (Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam) will ensure that the state will have at least 95 women legislators in the 288-member state legislative assembly.
Currently, the number is poor at 8 per cent with only 24 MLAs from across Maharashtra representing around 5.4 crore women in a state with having estimated total population of around 12 crores. The state has a total of 8.97 crore electorate of which 4.38 crore voters are women. This is around 47 per cent of the overall vote bank.
As far as women Lok Sabha MPSs are concerned, Maharashtra has eight of them in Lok Sabha. This is 16 per cent of the total 48 Lok Sabha MPs with most of them belonging to established political families.
While many of the legislators and Parliamentarians have proved their mettle in politics, there is a perception that most women come from established political families. In other words, women in many seats may be seen to be serving as proxies for their husbands or male relatives.
Among the LS MPs from the state, Poonam Mahajan is the daughter of late Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former cabinet minister Pramod Mahajan, Heena Gavit from Nandurbar, the daughter of former state minister Vijay Kumar Gavit. Raksha Khadse from Raver is the daughter-in-law of former BJP leader and current Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLC from north Maharashtra Eknath Khadse; Pritam Munde from Beed is the daughter of late Gopinath Munde. Bharati Pawar, a BJP MP from Dindori in Nashik is the daughter-in-law of eight-term NCP MLA from Nashik AT Pawar.
NCP’s Supriya Sule won from Baramati for the third time and is the daughter of party founder Sharad Pawar. Bhavana Gawali of Shiv Sena is the third time from Yavatmal-Washim while Navnit Rana, MP from Amravati, is the wife of Ravi Rana, a three-term MLA.
All of them belong to families with a strong political background with some of them making independent efforts to climb up the political hierarchy.
In the state assembly too, the picture is far from different with the majority of the women MLAs belonging to established political families. The highest women representation is from BJP with 12 women legislators in the house where the party had 105 MLAs. The demise of Mukta Tilak (Kasba Peth) in 2022, however, brought down the strength of BJP women legislators to 11.
The NCP has three women legislators, Congress five, Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde) faction has two MLAs, and Sena (UBT) one. There are two independent women MLAs too.
However, the higher women representation – be it to those from political backgrounds or not – is less about representatives than the women electorate they represent. History has been a witness that during 1994 when Sharad Pawar, then chief minister introduced 33 per cent reservation to women in local bodies, under a comprehensive women empowerment policy.
By 2011, Maharashtra increased the quota to 50 per cent in local bodies, promoting the political parties in the state not just to give tickets to women but also incorporate welfare schemes for women, and their empowerment and reservations find a mention in election manifestos of all the parties.
Today, at a local level, political parties have been giving tickets to even those women not belonging to established families nor have they projected as proxies. Many of the women have also represented big cities like Mumbai, and Pune as mayors.