Barring one bright spot, Rajasthan women MP numbers remain same as 2019

In the 18th Lok Sabha, the number of women MPs in the Lower House has dropped from 78 in the 17th Lok Sabha, to 74.
Last Updated : 08 June 2024, 15:32 IST
Last Updated : 08 June 2024, 15:32 IST

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Jaipur: Rajasthan has thrown up a Dalit woman MP, Sanjna Jatav, who says her in-laws persuaded her to join politics. She also said that her party-Congress reposed faith in her despite her losing the Assembly elections six months back - both aberrations that need to be recognised in a state that is still considered to be steeped in patriarchy with a long feudal history.

Tara Krishnaswamy, co-founder of Political Shakti, a non-partisan collective working for greater political representation of women, told Deccan Herald that this case is one bright spot in the dismal political scenario as regards to women MPs. In the 18th Lok Sabha, the number of women MPs in the Lower House has dropped from 78 in the 17th Lok Sabha, to 74.

She says: “It is very difficult for women to make a breakthrough in politics, competing with rich, upper caste men and male dynasts. There is hardly any first chance. And if you lose, there is no question of a second chance for women especially from Dalit communities. But here she has been fielded despite losing in the Assembly polls, kudos to her party for enabling her.”

However, BJP's Jyoti Mirdha also got a second chance from Nagaur after she lost her Assembly seat in 2023. Jyoti, with political legacy, has lost this time too. Similarly Congress fielded Archana Sharma twice from Malviya Nagar Assembly constituency, she lost both times.

Sanjna, 26, covered lost ground from her last elections and now would be one amongst the youngest MPs in the new Parliament. She is the only woman from the Congress Party this time who has been able to win her seat, Bharatpur, a SC reserved constituency, despite it being the native place of current chief minister Bhajan Lal Sharma. She triumphed over BJP’s Ramswaroop Koli with a vote margin of 51,983 votes. She polled 5,79,890 votes.

Congress had given seats to only three women candidates Sangeeta Beniwal from Pali and Urmila Jain Bhaya from Jhalawar-Baran, both of whom lost their seats by big margins.

Sanjna, whose dancing video after her win has gone viral, told DH politics was never on her mind as she grew up in a non-political family. But her in-laws, especially her father-in-law encouraged her to take on a more active role. With a BA and law degree, her first taste of politics was when she contested the Alwar Zila Parishad in 2021 and won.

Thereafter, she contested the Assembly elections from Kathumar where she lost against BJP’s Ramesh Khinchi by just 409 votes. Despite losing, Sanjna says both Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi were in her favour as they realised she had the potential to win. Having worked hard in Priyanka's ‘Ladki Hoon Lad Sakti Hoon campaign’ and also in her outreach amongst the households, Sanjna could not be overlooked, despite caste equations, money and muscle power.

She says her mother-in-law and husband Kaptan Singh, who is in Rajasthan Police, have promised to look after her two young children, girls aged 6 and boy 4. “They have no idea of my political engagements and want me to be there. Despite my involvement, I believe mother will always remain a mother first. In Parliament, my first priority would be to raise the issue of scarcity of water and reservation for Jats and Gujjars of Bharatpur, who were left behind when the NDA government included Jats in the OBC list in 1999. Then I would also talk about reducing migration of labourers by generating more jobs in the region and more educational institutes for girls.”

She says although new in the Parliament, she is not nervous and would raise her issues fearlessly but needs to understand the rules that have to be followed in the Lok Sabha.

Her colleagues from the BJP, Manju Sharma from Jaipur and Mahima Kumari Singh from Rajsamand would also be first timers in the Lok Sabha.

Jaipur Lok Sabha constituency is seeing a woman MP after 47 years. Erstwhile maharani of Jaipur, Gayatri Devi, had won this seat from 1962 till 1971 from Swatantra Party. A Brahmin-dominated seat, BJP has won Jaipur nine times and three times in a row.

Manju Sharma, 64, who won with a margin of 3,31767 votes and polled 8,86850 votes, is, however, a dynast. She defeated Congress’s Pratap Singh Khachariywas, a former minister. She is the daughter of former minister and MLA and an influential Brahmin leader, Bhanwar Lal Sharma. An active BJP worker, she, however, had lost her first MLA election in 2008.

Mahima Kumari Singh, from the Mewar royal dynasty, has won with a margin of 3,92223 votes and has polled a whopping 7,81203 votes against Congress’s Damodar Gujjar. Her husband, Vishwaraj Singh Mewar, is a MLA from Nathdwara , who had recently joined BJP just before the Assembly polls. Mahima, however, dismisses the dynast allegation saying her family has had political connections since long, as her father-in-law was Chittorgarh MP in 1989. She says people generally trust candidates from royal families as they keep in touch with the masses. And that she built an extensive network while helping in the campaign for her husband in the recent Assembly elections.

Rajasthan has the same number of women MPs in 2024 as in 2019. In 2019 and 2014, all the 25 seats were swept by the BJP. In 2019, Ranjita Koli from Bharatpur (SC), Jaskaur Meena from Dausa (ST), and Diya Kumari from Rajsamand were elected. In 2014, there was only one woman MP from the BJP, Santosh Ahlawat from Jhunjhunu.

The 74 newly elected women MPs in the 18th Lok Sabha, make up just 13.63% of the elected strength of the House, much less than the 33% that is going to be reserved for women after the next delimitation exercise.

If the Women Reservation Bill’s one-third formula is followed, out of the total 25 seats, each party needs to field at least 9 women candidates in Rajasthan. But this time only a total of eight candidates, three from Congress and five from BJP have been fielded. And out of that three have won, so the winning percentage of women candidates fielded is 37.5%.

Krishnaswamy says : “Although the number of tickets given is too low, their strike rate is impressive, meaning women are winnable candidates. Women have to compete with men in terms of reservation, caste equations, winnability in all seats - irrespective of it being general or reserved. So it is not a level playing field. The reality of Indian politics is women have to compete with rich, upper caste and male dynasts. To have a real impact of the bill, there needs to be a quota at every level of politics including at the ticket distribution stage. India needs to accommodate more women leaders and decision makers at the top level.”

Published 08 June 2024, 15:32 IST

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