As both houses of Parliament endorse the Women's Reservation Bill, it presents an opportune moment to examine the current landscape of female representation in the context of candidacies during the 2019 Parliamentary elections. Notably, this analysis draws parallels with the 2014 elections, which saw a mere 8.1% of total candidates being women, a figure that has marginally increased to 9.13% in 2019.
Remarkably, only two political parties in India have surpassed the symbolic threshold of 33% representation for women candidates in the 2019 election – the Trinamool Congress and BJD, boasting 37% and 33% female candidates, respectively.
However, it is essential to recognize the prevailing preference among major political parties for fielding candidates with substantial financial means. Astonishingly, 83% of the women candidates nominated by the BJP and 82% by the INC declared assets amounting to one crore or more. Similarly, 83% of the female candidates from the Samajwadi Party (SP) and 65% from the Trinamool Congress possessed assets exceeding one crore. Consequently, 36% of the women who contested the 2019
Parliament elections were 'Crorepatis,' implying that the average assets of a female candidate in the Lok Sabha elections 2019
amounted to 5.63 Crores.
Furthermore, another interesting revelation emerges concerning the legal records of female candidates. Notably, 15% of women candidates declared criminal cases against them, while 11% faced severe criminal charges, including cases related to rape, murder, attempt to murder, and crimes against women etc in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
The data indicates that the highest number of women candidates with pending criminal charges were affiliated with the BJP, followed closely by the Congress. A substantial 34% of women fielded by the BJP had criminal cases against them, with 25% facing severe criminal charges. The Congress registered 26% and 19% for criminal cases and severe charges, respectively.
It is noteworthy that the Trinamul Congress is not lagging behind in fielding women candidates with criminal records. Twenty-six per cent of female candidates from this party had pending criminal charges, while 17% were confronted with serious allegations.
On a more positive note, women members of the Lok Sabha have displayed commendable educational achievements, reflecting a brighter aspect of their political participation.
Criteria for serious criminal cases:
- Offence for which maximum punishment is of 5 years or more.
- If an offence is non-bailable
- If it is an electoral offence (for eg. IPC 171E or bribery)
- Offence related to loss to exchequer
- Offences that are assault, murder, kidnap, rape-related
- Offences that are mentioned in Representation of the People Act (Section 8)
- Offences under Prevention of Corruption Act
- Crimes against women.
BJP had the highest number of women MPs who got a second chance in 2019. 18 women MPs of BJP were sitting MPs and there is a tangible increase in their assets. The average percentage of increase in their assets (between 2014 and 2019) is 11%. Congress fielded only four sitting MPs in 2019; the average increase in their assets is 32.28%. Trinamool Congress fielded 11 sitting MPs in 2019; the average increase in their assets is a mind-blowing figure of 58%.