That Indian society is male dominated is a harsh reality reflected in their poor representation in the political sphere of the nation. No doubt, in India, we notice that with every election, more women MPs are elected. For instance, 78 women candidates were elected to Parliament out of around 700 female candidates who contested the 2019 general elections, the highest number so far. Yet, when we consider that the number of male MPs are 176, above twice that of their female counterparts, or that in the Rajya Sabha only 20 out of the 240 MPs are women, we can recognize the fact that such ‘progress’ is not enough. Statistics at the State Assemblies level reveal that the situation is even worse. Ironically, female representation remained low even when parties were led by women, as exemplified by the Congress under Indira Gandhi, the AIADMK under late Jayalalitha or the Trinamool Congress under Mamata Banerjee. One recalls that sometime back the concept of reserving 33% seats for women, championed by all-India parties like the BJP and the Congress, had been mooted, but it soon lapsed into thin air in a blatant illustration of male hypocrisy. Sadly, as if to drive home the contradiction of women being meagrely represented in the biggest democracy in the world, in the ongoing Assam Assembly elections, there has actually been ‘regression’ of female participation as candidates!
In the 2016 Assam Assembly elections, there were 91 women candidates in the fray with eight winning, while in 2011, 85 women contested and 14 made it to the Assembly, the highest number elected thus far to the House. In blatant contrast, only 74 women candidates are in the fray for the three-phase Assam Assembly elections this time, comprising just 7.82% of the total 946 candidates in the fray for the 126-member Assembly. It is unfortunate that the recognized political parties have been chary of choosing women as their candidates. The BJP has given tickets to seven women candidates, one more than the last polls, while its alliance partner the AGP has put up two aspirants, the same as in the last elections. The Congress has nine women in the fray while its allies like the AIUDF and BPF have one each. The regressive nature of such allocations of tickets to women is testified to by the fact that the so-called Mahajot’s total of 12 women candidates in this Assembly poll is less than the 16 women given tickets by the Congress when it contested the 2016 Assembly elections alone. The above numbers pale into greater insignificance when one considers that these all-India parties are contesting almost all the 126 seats. The biggest irony is that, despite the inadequate number of female candidates, women had voted in higher numbers than males in the first phase of these elections!