556 women contested 2009 Lok Sabha polls, only 61 made it

556 women contested 2009 Lok Sabha polls,  only 61 made it

The number of women taking the electoral plunge has seen a steady rise since 1957 but fewer actually make it to the Lok Sabha. 

The outgoing 15th Lok Sabha has the highest number of women members – 61 – a little over 11 per cent of the 545-member House.

The 15th Lok Sabha was also unique as three key posts – Speaker, Leader of the ruling coalition and Leader of the Opposition – were held by women. While Meira Kumar became the first woman to hold the coveted post of Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Sonia Gandhi, chairperson of the UPA, and Sushma Swaraj, the Leader of the Opposition, have both played influential roles. Incidentally, Pratibha Patil, the first woman President, was at the helm when the 15th Lok Sabha was sworn in.

Interestingly, the strike rate of women contestants was high in the initial Lok Sabhas with 22 of the 45 candidates winning the election in 1957. In 1962, there were 31 women in the Lok Sabha while 66 had contested the election. 

In 2009 elections, the BJP fielded 44 women contestants while the Congress 43. Of these, 23 women contestants from the Congress and 13 from the BJP emerged victorious.

Among other national parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) gave tickets to 28 women out of which four candidates won. The CPM and the CPI gave six and four tickets, respectively, to women with one woman winning from the CPM. The NCP fielded seven women candidates of which two emerged victorious.

J Shanta, a BJP candidate elected from Bellary, was the lone woman member from Karnataka in the 15th Lok Sabha till she was joined by actor-politician Ramya (Congress) who won the by-elections to Mandya parliamentary seat in August last year.

Among prominent women Lok Sabha members are Maneka Gandhi, Yashodhara Raje, Sumitra Mahajan (all from the BJP), Jyoti Mirdha, Annu Tandon, Chandresh Kumari Katoch, Priya Dutt, Deepa Dasmunshi (all from the Congress), Supriya Sule and Agatha Sangma (both from the NCP).

As many as 100 women candidates were in the fray from Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats, but only 13 won. In Maharashtra (48 seats), 55 women contested but only three won. In Bihar (40 seats), 46 women contested and four reached the Lok Sabha.

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