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Only 8 per cent of women candidates in first two phases of Lok Sabha polls

Of the 135 women candidates in phase 1, Tamil Nadu had the highest share at 76, but they account for just 8 per cent of the candidates in the state, while Kerala has the maximum women candidates at 24 in phase 2.

election 1NEW DELHI: Women constituted only eight per cent of the total 2,823 candidates in the first two phases of the Lok Sabha polls, with political activists saying it reflects a deeper issue of gender bias and that the talk of empowering them rings hollow.

In the first phase of the Lok Sabha polls, there were 135 women candidates while in the second phase, there were 100 women candidates, bringing the combined total for the first two phases to 235 women candidates.

Of the 135 women candidates in phase 1, Tamil Nadu had the highest share at 76, but they account for just 8 per cent of the candidates in the state, while Kerala has the maximum women candidates at 24 in phase 2.

Party-wise, the Congress has fielded 44 women till now while 69 women have been fielded by the BJP in the first two phases.

This significant gender imbalance has sparked criticism from political analysts and activists, who ask why parties are waiting for the Women’s Reservation Bill to be implemented instead of proactively issuing tickets to women.

Dr Sushila Ramaswamy, Associate Professor at Delhi University’s Jesus and Mary College, said political parties should take concrete steps to promote women’s candidacy.

“Political parties should have been more proactive and fielded more women candidates,” she underscored, citing the effectiveness of seat reservations for women within party structures, as seen in the Britain’s Labour Party.

With women constituting nearly half of India’s electorate, their under representation in the candidate pool raises broader questions about the barriers hindering women’s full participation in the political sphere, Dr. Iftekhar Ahmad Ansari, Associate Professor at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), said.

Beyond the symbolic gestures and promises, he stressed the importance of structural reforms to ensure equal opportunities for women in politics.

He highlighted the critical role of party leadership in promoting gender diversity.

The issue of women’s political representation extends beyond numerical quotas to encompass systemic changes in party dynamics and electoral processes, Farhat Jahan, a retired faculty member at the Abdullah Women’s College at the AMU said while emphasising the need for gender-sensitive policies that address challenges faced by women in politics.

“Political parties must prioritise gender inclusion in candidate selection and provide adequate support to women aspirants,” she emphasised.

“The upcoming phases of the elections present an opportunity for political parties to demonstrate their commitment to gender equality through concrete actions.

Initiatives such as mentorship programs, capacity-building workshops, and awareness campaigns can empower women to actively participate in the electoral process and pursue leadership roles,” she added.

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