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The state of women politicians in India


New Delhi, May 28: India is a country where women in politics face all sorts of problems. Despite this, women have served the highest offices. Indira Gandhi was prime minister of India and Pratibha Patil was the president. In the first Narendra Modi government, women handled important portfolios. Nirmala Sitharaman became the first dedicated woman defence Minister. Sushma Swaraj was External Affairs Minister; Smriti Irani Human Resource Development Minister; Maneka Gandhi Women & Child Development Minister, and Uma Bharti Drinking Water and Sanitation portfolio Minister. Sumitra Mahajan was the Lok Sabha speaker.

Anandiben Patel, who served as first woman Chief Minister of Gujarat, is now Governor of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

The state of women politicians in India

Former Congress president and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi had rode Congress into power in 2004. Her daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has recently joined active politics.

Mamata Banerjee is credited to achieve what was unimaginable in West Bengal. She dethroned the Left rule in West Bengal and is serving the second term as West Bengal Chief Minister.

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Former UP chief minister and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati is the current Dalit icon.

Congress' Sheila Dikshit was Chief Minister of Delhi for 15 years. Late J Jayalalithaa was the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.

Despite all these and other women stars of Indian politics, India lags behind many countries as far as the percentage of women MPs is concerned. In the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections, 78 women MPs have been elected, which stands at 14 per cent. In 2014, 62 women MPs were elected.

Even a Muslim country like Bangladesh has more women MPs than India. There are 21 per cent women MPs in Bangladesh. The Parliaments of Rwanda, South Africa, UK, and USA have 61 per cent, 43 per cent, 32 per cent, and 24 per cent women MPs respectively.

To understand how women politicians are treated in India, analysis of the just concluded Lok Sabha campaigning is enough.

For example, senior Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Azam Khan stooped very low against her opponent and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate and former actress Jaya Prada from Rampur during campaigning.

Khan was castigated by one and all for making a sexist remark against Jaya Prada.

Without naming Jaya Prada, Khan allegedly said, "People of Rampur, people of Uttar Pradesh and people of India, it took you 17 years to understand her reality. But, I could recognize it in 17 days that she wears a khaki underwear."

Despite this, the voters voted for Khan and he defeated Jaya Prada.

Another example is that former Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi resigned from the party and joined Shiv Sena, which she describes as a safe party for women.

Chaturvedi, who was also convenor of the Congress' media cell, quit the party after some Congress leaders who misbehaved with her in Mathura were reinstated in the party on April 15 by Jyotiraditya Scindia, Congress in-charge of Western Uttar Pradesh.

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These Congress leaders reportedly misbehaved with Priyanka during the press conference on Rafale deal in Mathura a few days ago.

After Chaturvedi filed complaint, the Congress suspended eight Mathura Congress leaders.

They were reinstated in the party by Scindia on April 15 after they gave a written apology. The reasoning of their reinstatement was that the party needed expelled leaders to win the Lok Sabha election in Mathura.

However, the Congress lost the Mathura seat where another woman and BJP candidate Hema Malini became victorious.

Ironically, a woman's dignity was ignored in a party where the words of two women: Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are still considered final.

Actor-turned-politician Khushbu Sundar was forced to slap a man who was misbehaving with her during her Congress rally in Bengaluru.

These examples sum up the problems being faced by women politicians in India.

Another example of political space for women in India is that previous 16 governments have failed to pass the Women's Reservation Bill or The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, 2008 which proposes to amend the Constitution of India to reserve 33 per cent of all seats in the Lok Sabha and in all state legislative assemblies for women.

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