Participation of women candidates has remained abysmally low in Lok Sabha elections in Rajasthan, though there has been a modest increase over the last couple of decades.
In the past 14 Lok Sabha elections held since 1952, 180 women candidates were in the fray, many among them repeat-nominees, and 28 were elected to the lower house from the state which has 25 constituencies.
In fact, in seven Lok Sabha elections held between 1952 and 1989, not more than six women candidates had contested.
The highest 31 women candidates were fielded in 2009 while the figure was just two in 1952 Lok Sabha elections when Sharda Bai and Rani Devi Bhargava contested from Bharatpur-Swai Madhopur and Pali-Sirohi seat respectively. However, security deposits of both the candidates were forfeited as they failed to get one-sixth of the votes polled.
Rajasthan has had a woman chief minister from 2003 to 2008 and 2013 to 2018, BJP leader Vasundhara Raje. She is also the only women candidate contested and won five times starting from 1989 from Jhalawar seat.
As per the Election Commission data, among the other prominent women candidates who won are Gayatri Devi from Swatantra Party and Girija Vyas of the Congress who represented the state in parliament multiple times.
Security of 125 women candidates has been forfeited in Lok Sabha elections in Rajasthan so far. The highest of four women candidates were elected by voters in Rajasthan in 1991 and 1996 polls respectively.
The low representation of women in Lok Sabha elections reflects the bias they suffer in society, according to women lawmakers and political analysts who contend that giving 33 per cent reservation to females in legislatures will address the gender imbalance in politics.
“Due to male dominated society women did not get chance to participate in politics for years. Though participation of women has increased over the years due to growing literacy and awareness about rights, 33 per cent reservation for women is still far from reality,” says Sumitra Singh, a nine-time MLA and former Rajasthan Assembly speaker Though women are coming forward due to awareness and rising literacy level, a lot depends on winnability of candidates that parties consider while distribution of tickets, according to Om Saini, political analyst While political parties are stressing on the need of giving tickets to women candidates, “The bill for 33 per cent reservation, if passed will be a major breakthrough,” Saini said.
Kiran Maheshwari, BJP MLA and former MP from Rajasthan, noted that participation of women has increased in politics, be it local bodies election or state assembly.
“However, there should be compulsory 33 per cent quota for women to encourage participation. There is also a need to develop women leadership by the parties,” she said and added that her party is giving ample opportunities to women and nominating them for key posts.
Gayatri Devi, the erstwhile Jaipur royal family member, was the only women candidate from the state who won the Lok Sabha election in 1962 with a record 77.08 per cent votes being polled in her favour. She represented Jaipur parliamentary constituency thrice.
Many other women MPs from the state too were from erstwhile royal families, including Krishna Kumari, who won in 1971 from Jodhpur, Krishnendra Kaur and Divya Singh, who represented Bharatpur in 1991 and 1996 respectively and Mahendra Kumari (Alwar-1991).
Vyas contested elections the highest seven times and won four times.
Following 1991 when 14 women were in electoral fray, the number of female candidates has started gradually increasing.
In 1996, 25 women contested elections followed by 20 in 1998, 15 in 1999, 31 in 2004 and 27 in 2014 polls, as per the EC data.