The new 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly will have only one woman legislator – BJP’s Reena Kashyap, who emerged victorious from Pachhad by defeating Dayal Pyari of the Congress.
The performance of women candidates in the assembly elections held on 12 November was disappointing, with only one elected out of 24 in the fray.
BJPThe Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress had fielded six, five and three women candidates, but only Reena Kashyap won the election. Kashyap, who won the Pachhad (SC) assembly bypoll in 2021, managed to retain her seat.
In 2017, four women candidates were successful in winning the assembly elections.
Among those who lost the November 12 election were Social Justice and Empowerment Minister and four-time MLA from Kangra’s Shahpur, Sarveen Chowdhary; senior Congress leader and six-time MLA from Dalhousie Asha Kumari, who was a contender for the chief minister’s post; BJP MLA from Indora, Rita Dhiman; Champa Thakur, daughter of veteran Congress leader Kaul Singh from Mandi.
About 49 per cent of the total voters in the state are women.
Interestingly, since 1998 elections, the turnout of female voters was higher than that of males and this trend continued in the last five elections as well. The turnout percentage of female and male voters was 72.2 and 71.23 percent in 1998, 75.92 and 73.14 percent in 2003, 74.10 and 68.36 percent in 2007, 76.20 and 69.39 percent in 2012 and 77.98 and 70.58 percent in 2017.
In the recently held elections, 76.8 percent of female voters exercised their franchise, while 72.4 percent of male voters exercised their franchise. Female voters outnumbered male voters by 82,301.
Women voters outnumbered men in three constituencies of Jaisinghpur (SC) in Kangra, Bhoranj (SC) in Hamirpur and Jubbal-Kotkhai in Shimla In 19 out of 68 constituencies in the district, the difference between male and female voters is less than 1000 and in 42 constituencies the percentage of female turnout was higher than that of males.
To woo women voters, the BJP had made 11 promises for women under Stree Shakti Sankalp and announced 33 per cent reservation for women in government jobs and educational institutions, Rs 500 crore for interest-free loans to women The corpus funds entrepreneurs, and cycles and scooters to school and college-going girls, while the Congress unveiled the “Har Ghar Laxmi, Nari Samman Nidhi”, which promised Rs 1,500 per month to adult women.
However, despite tall claims of women’s empowerment and concessions made to them, there is a clear gender bias among major political parties and only 43 women have been elected to the state assembly in fifteen elections since 1967.
In fact, the actual number of women who reached the state assembly was 20 as senior Congress leaders Vidya Stokes was an eight-timer, Asha Kumari (six times), Sarveen Chowdhary (four times), Viplav Thakur, Chandresh Kumari and Shyama Sharma (three times) . timer), Anita Verma, Urmil Thakur and Krishna Mohini (two timers).
The first timers included Sarla Sharma, Padma, Lata Thakur, Leela Sharma, Sushma Sharma, Nirmala, Renu Chadha, Vinod Kumari, Rita Dhiman, Reena Kashyap, Kamlesh Kumari, Asha Kumari and Sarveen Chowdhary.
206 women contested these elections compared to 4,347 men, and no women were elected in 1967, while only one woman candidate won in 1977. Women candidates made their debut in 1972 and four women, Chandresh Kumari, Sarla Sharma, Lata Vidya Stokes were elected in a by-election from Theog following the death of their husbands, Thakur and Padma, taking their number to five.
Shyama Sharma of the Janata Party was the only winner in the 1977 elections, while three women – Shyama Sharma, Chandresh and Vidya Stokes – won the elections in 1982.
In the 1985 mid-term elections, Vidya Stokes, Asha Kumari and Viplav Thakur were elected, while four women candidates – Leela Sharma, Shyama Sharma, Sushma Sharma and Vidya Stokes – emerged victorious in the 1990 elections.
Asha Kumari, Viplov Thakur and Krishna Mohini defeated their male opponents in the 1993 elections, while in 1998 maximum six female contestants, Sarveen Chowdhary, Urmil Thakur, Viplov Thakur, Vidya Stokes and Asha Kumari were elected, while Nirmala won in the by-election.
Anita Verma was also elected in the 1994 by-election from Hamirpur.
In the 2003 elections, four women – Vidya Stokes, Anita Verma, Chandresh and Asha Kumari – were elected, while five female contestants – Vidya Stokes, Urmil Thakur, Sarveen Chowdhary, Renu Chadda and Vinod Kumari – emerged victorious in 2007.