While the women's reservation bill, cleared by the Parliament earlier this year, may have become part of the election rhetoric, with even Prime Minister Narendra Modi talking about his government's role in its safe passage, both the BJP and Congress fall short when it comes to fielding 33 per cent women candidates for the upcoming assembly elections in Rajasthan.
Congress party in Rajasthan has given tickets to 28 women candidates (14 per cent), whereas the BJP has fielded 20 female candidates (10 per cent) of the total 200 assembly seats. In 2018 assembly polls, Congress gave tickets to 27 women candidates, whereas the BJP fielded 23 women out of its 200 candidates.
The prominent women candidates from the BJP include former CM Vasundhara Raje, Bikaner MLA Sidhi Kumari, former women and child minister Anita Bhadel, Rajsamand MLA Dipti Maheshwari and Rajsamand MP Diya Kumari. Meanwhile, Congress has Archana Sharma from Malviya Nagar, Shika Meel Barala from Chomu, women and child minister Mamta Bhupesh and Zahida from Kama.
While most of these female candidates have been retained from previous elections, this time, Congress replaced its sitting MLA Safiya Zubair from Ramgarg district in Alwar and instead gave a ticket to her husband Zubair Ahmed.
Of the 25 new faces that Congress inducted in its list of candidates, the youngest is a 25-year-old law graduate Sanjana Jatav, a Congress Zilla Parishad member from Kathumar. The Kathumar constituency is reserved for the SC candidates and the party has given the ticket to a woman for the first time.
Stressing a balanced representation in the political arena, MP Gaurav Gogoi, who headed the screening committee for Congress in Rajasthan, told the media, "The All India Congress Committee (AICC) believes in giving more opportunities to the youth, women and first-time candidates in Rajasthan, which is crucial for a vibrant and representative democracy"
Female voting percentage was higher than male voters in 2018
During the 2018 Rajasthan assembly elections, the overall voter turnout was 74.71 per cent. Interestingly, the voting percentage of women was 74 per cent, one per cent more than that of men, at 73 per cent. While both parties have kept this significant trend in mind while assuring promises when it comes to ticket distribution, the percentage of women candidates still stands at a mere 10 per cent.
According to the Rajasthan state chief election officer Praveen Gupta, 2,605 candidates have filed around 3,436 nominations in the state for the upcoming assembly elections, of which 299 are women candidates. The last date to withdraw the nomination is November 9. The state is all set to go for the poll on November 25. The result will be announced on December 3.
The total electors in Rajasthan are 5.25 crore, out of which 2.73 crore are male, 2.51 crore are female and 804 are from the transgender community. Around 21.9 lakh of these are first-time voters. Out of 200 seats, 141 seats are for the general category, whereas 25 are reserved for ST and 34 for the SC community. This time, there are 80,000 more female voters as compared to the previous polls. The tribal belt of southern Rajasthan records more women voters. The Nimbhera constituency is the only one in the state with more female voters.
During the 2003 elections, the voting percentage of women was 64.21 per cent, reaching 74.68 per cent in 2018, which suggests that the voting percentage of women increased by 10% in 20 years. In 1998, 69 candidates were in the fray and 14 won, whereas in the 2003 polls, 118 women candidates fought elections, and only 12 won.
Women issues take centre state in election campaigns
In the ongoing election campaigns, while Congress doesn't miss to mention its women-centric welfare schemes, including the recent promise of an annual allowance of Rs 10,000 for women heads of families, the BJP doesn't leave a chance of attacking the Congress government for the rise of atrocities against women.
While campaigning at Murlipura Mandal in Ward 3 of Vidyadhar Nagar Assembly Constituency, BJP candidate Diya Kumari said, "Congress has considered women as just a vote bank. Women do not need free mobile phones, they need security. This is also the right of every woman, and this government has failed to provide the same."
To BJP state Mahila Morcha has also invited women leaders from Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Delhi and Jammu Kashmir to publicise the Modi government's schemes and programmes and reach out to the general public, especially women.
"Rajasthan is on top when it comes to atrocities against women. Prime Minister Modi believes in giving equal rights to women, and the schemes being launched are focused on safeguarding their honour. The schemes that the Congress is publicising is to take political advantage," BJP spokesperson Amit Goyal told Outlook.
The NCRB report showed that Rajasthan ranked second after Uttar Pradesh in overall crimes against women in 2021 and reported the highest number of rape cases in the country at 6,337. This marked an annual increase of 19.34 per cent, as 5,310 cases were reported in 2020.
Reacting to the BJP's allegations, Congress spokesperson Swarnim Chaturvedi said, "The party has increased the number of female candidates, as compared to 2018 polls. The allegation by the opposition party is baseless."
Backing the women-centric schemes launched by the Congress government, the social welfare board chairperson and Congress candidate from Jaipur's Malviya Nagar assembly constituency, Archana Sharma, told Outlook, "In Rajasthan, the welfare schemes were launched five years ago and women are part of it. The government has taken immediate action on crime against women as compared to the BJP's regime. The state’s policy of registering all complaints as FIRs is the reason behind the high numbers."