Out of 68 MLAs in Himachal's New Assembly, Only One Is a Woman

More women than men have voted in Himachal assembly elections since 1998, PTI has reported.

New Delhi: Out of the 68 members of the new legislative assembly of Himachal Pradesh, only one is a woman, in a state where more women than men have voted since 1998, PTI has reported.

Women constitute about 49% of total voters in Himachal.

Congress won the November 12 assembly polls, the results of which were declared yesterday. The party won 40 seats and will have an equal number of representatives in the assembly – none of whom are women. It had fielded three women candidates, all of whom lost.

Out of the six and five women fielded by Bharatiya Janata Party and Aam Aadmi Party, only one, BJP’s Reena Kashyap won. Kashyap is the sitting MLA of the Pachhad seat, a Scheduled Caste reserved seat which she won through a by-election in 2021.

Among those who lost the November 12 elections include social justice and empowerment minister and four-time MLA from Shahpur in Kangra, Sarveen Chaudhary; senior Congress leader and six-time MLA from Dalhousie, Asha Kumari who was a contender for chief minister’s post; BJP MLA from Indora Rita Dhiman; veteran Congress leader Kaul Singh’s daughter Champa Thakur from Mandi.

In the last assembly elections in the state in 2017, four women candidates had won.

PTI reports that the polling percentage of women voters has been more than men since the 1998 polls.

Year Polling percentage: Women Polling percentage: Men
1998 72.2 71.23
2003 75.92 73.14
2007 74.10 68.36
2012 76.20 69.39
2017 77.98 70.58
2022 76.8 72.4

This time, 82,301 more women voted than men.

Women voters outnumbered men in three constituencies of Jaisinghpur (reserved for SC candidates) in Kangra, Bhoranj (also SC reserved) in Hamirpur and Jubbal-Kotkhai in Shimla district. In 19 out of 68 constituencies the difference between male and female voters is less than 1,000 and the percentage of female turnout was more as compared to men in 42 constituencies.

Ahead of the elections, BJP had made 11 promises for women in its manifesto, under ‘Stree Shakti Sankalp’, announced 33% reservation to women in government jobs and educational institutions, a corpus fund of Rs 500 crore to give interest free loans to women entrepreneurs, and bicycles and scooters to school and college going girls.

Congress had unveiled a ‘Har Ghar Lakshmi, Nari Samman Nidhi,’ promising Rs 1,500 per month to adult women.

Despite a survey by the Pew Research Center showing widespread public acceptance of female politicians in India – most adults say that women and men make equally good political leaders (55%) or that women generally make better leaders than men (14%) – women’s political participation remains low.

This report also says that India slipped 28 places to rank 140th among 156 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report in 2021, becoming the third-worst performer in South Asia.Most of the decline occurred in the area of political empowerment, where India regressed considerably, with a significant drop in the number of women ministers in recent years — from 23.1% in 2019 to 9.1% in 2021.

Past picture in Himachal

Only 43 women were elected to the Himachal Pradesh assembly in 15 elections since 1967.

In fact, the actual number of women who made it to state assembly was 20 as senior Congress leader Vidya Stokes was eight timer, Asha Kumari (six timer), Sarveen Chaudhary (four timer), Viplov Thakur, Chandresh Kumari and Shyama Sharma (three timer), Anita Verma, Urmil Thakur and Krishana Mohini(two timers).

The first timers included Sarla Sharma, Padma, Lata Thakur, Lila Sharma, Sushama Sharma, Nirmala, Renu Chadda, Vinod Kumari, Rita Dhiman, Reena Kashyap, Kamlesh Kumari, Asha Kumari, and Sarveen Chaudhary.

As many as 206 women entered the fray in these polls compared to 4,347 men and no woman was elected in 1967 while only one woman candidate won in 1977.

The women candidates made their debut in 1972 and four women, Chandresh Kumari, Sarla Sharma, Lata Thakur and Padma were elected and tally rose to five after Vidya Stokes was elected in by-election from Theog after the death of her husband.

Shyama Sharma of Janta Party was the sole winner in 1977 polls while three women – Shyama Sharma, Chandresh and Vidya Stokes – won the polls in 1982.

In the 1985 mid-term polls, Vidya Stokes, Asha Kumari and Viplov Thakur were elected, while four women candidates – Lila Sharma, Shyama Sharma, Sushama Sharma and Vidya Stokes – were winners in the 1990 polls.

Asha Kumari, Viplov Thakur and Krishna Mohini defeated their male opponents in 1993 polls while maximum number of six women contestants, Sarveen Chowdhary, Urmil Thakur, Viplov Thakur, Vidya Stokes and Asha Kumari, were elected in 1998 while Nirmala won the by-election.

Anita Verma was also elected in by-election from Hamirpur in 1994.

In 2003 elections, four women – Vidya Stokes, Anita Verma, Chandresh and Asha Kumari – were elected, while five women contestants – Vidya Stokes, Urmil Thakur, Sarveen Chowdhary, Renu Chadda and Vinod Kumari – emerged victorious in 2007.

The number again declined to three in 2012 polls when Vidya Stokes, Asha Kumari and Sarveen Chaudhary were reelected.

In the 2017 elections, Asha Kumari, Sarveen Chowdhary, Rita Dhiman, and Kamlesh Kumari were winners while Reena Kashyap entered the assembly winning bypoll in 2021.

(With PTI inputs)