Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Increasing women's representation in Maharashtra's electoral battles

21 May,2024 09:44 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Sanjana Deshpande

It is worth noting that in the battle for 48 seats in Maharashtra during Lok Sabha Elections, only Baramati in Pune district witnessed a direct fight between two women candidates—NCP (SP)’s Supriya Sule and her cousin Ajit Pawar’s wife Sunetra Pawar


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The electoral battlefield in Maharashtra was charged as the remaining 13 constituencies voted to elect their representatives in the fifth and final phase of Lok Sabha Elections 2024 in the state. The electoral battle this year was interesting owing to the vertical splits in two major parties in the state.

It is worth noting that in the battle for 48 seats in Maharashtra during Lok Sabha Elections, only Baramati in Pune district witnessed a direct fight between two women candidates - NCP (SP)'s Supriya Sule and her cousin Ajit Pawar's wife Sunetra Pawar.

In recent years, Maharashtra's political landscape has seen a change with women's representation increasing at a steady pace. In Lok Sabha Elections 2024, the two prominent alliances - Maha Vikas Aghadi and Mahayuti - have, in total, nominated only 15 women candidates of which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has nominated six women.

Numbers in previous years

From Maharashtra, in Lok Sabha Elections 2024, out of nearly 900 candidates contesting, only 58 were women and only 5 had managed to win the elections. The number did slightly go up in the following general elections.

According to the data available, in 2019, a total of 867 candidates contested the elections of which 80 were women. Prominent political parties - then undivided - had nominated only 11 candidates of which eight had secured a win including Sule who was fighting for a third term. Interestingly, the eight candidates all came from affluent families in the political arena.

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Women's representation

Even though the numbers have increased, an expert noted that women in politics are not autonomous.

Speaking to mid-day.com, political analyst and the Head of Politics dept of Mumbai University, Dr Deepak Pawar said that although more women are being fielded, the reins are however in the hands of the men.

"After the 73rd and 74th amendments of the Indian Constitution, the women leadership in Maharashtra developed. Due to the statutory provision, the women received 33 per cent reservation in politics," said Pawar.

He added that in the initial years, the women leaders often came from affluent political families and once they were elected to power, especially in local politics, the reins remained in the hands of the men.

This is what led to the coining of the term ‘Sarpanch-Pati' (husband of the sarpanch), said Pawar.

Citing the narrative surrounding Baramati's battle, Dr Deepak said, "Even when a three-time MP (Supriya Sule) was taking on the wife of Maharashtra's Deputy Chief Minister (Sunetra Pawar), the narrative was that it is a battle between Sharad Pawar and nephew Ajit. Even when Devendra Fadnavis tried to spin the narrative, he said that it was a battle between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi. This shows that the space of women in politics is not autonomous."

Elaborating further on the increase of the women leaders, Dr Deepak said that after reservation for women was detailed, more women supported movements like the women's liberation movement began entering politics.

"With the increasing participation, the women understood that they must be on panels of the local governance institutions like gram panchayat, zilla parishad, etc. It is now evident that there are at least 10 per cent of women elected representatives - who, if trained properly, execute their duties well," he said.

"The amount of women leadership in Maharashtra politics does not go over 10-15 per cent and most belong to political families in the state. A similar pattern is visible in national politics," said Dr Deepak.

Samya Korde, a young leader from Dharavi, echoed similar thoughts about women's participation. Korde, who is campaigning for MVA candidates in Mumbai, highlighted it is crucial to promote women leaders.

Hailing MVA candidate Varsha Gaikwad's candidacy, she remarked, "Varsha Gaikwad, who has served as a cabinet minister in Maharashtra, is not just a woman leader but also a face of Dalit community. It is important that leaders like her contest the Lok Sabha Elections 2024 which will further give opportunities for other women to participate."

Elaborating on intersectional identities and their impact on women politicians, Korde opined, "If an organisation has inclusive policies, women leaders from Dalit Bahujan Adivasi communities get electoral space and the community gets representation."

When asked about how she believes public perception impacts women's leadership, she said, "When political parties promote women's leadership in some constituencies, it makes space for the women voters to air their grievances without hesitation."

Korde added that seeing figures like them being represented also has a positive impact on voter turnout and women's participation in politics.

Pendency of implementation of the Women's Reservation Bill

"Since representation has an affirmative effect on women's participation, the passing of the Women's Reservation Bill and its implementation was crucial. Had it been implemented earlier, it would have made way for more women in politics to contest the Lok Sabha Elections 2024, thereby leading to increased representation of women," Korde said while speaking on women's representation and the Women's Reservation Bill.

With the changes on a policy level, more women, who are not affiliated with affluent political parties, will get a chance to participate in politics including electoral politics.

Dr Pawar, while speaking on the same, said that Indian men politicians do not want to forfeit their seats. "Even if they had to forfeit (their seat), they wish that the women from their family should be elected from the constituency. The inference was deduced from the delay in implementation of the Women's Reservation Bill," he said.

The political analyst added that the leaders, seemingly, want to limit the presence of independent women leaders, and if it's unavoidable, they look to marginalise or peripheralise the women.

"Even if the number of women representatives in electoral politics has gone up, it has not had a major impact until now," he added.

Should political parties foster women's leadership?

When asked about the political parties' role in fostering women's leadership in Maharashtra, Dr Pawar said that the conditions have compelled them to look at women as a different constituent. "In the last decade, the parties have observed that women do not necessarily vote for the candidates as per the instructions of the men in their family. Additionally, increasing financial independence among women and discussions in the public domain on women's issues has bound the parties to pay attention to women," he noted and added that in case the parties do not take notice of it, they risk losing a voter base.

Electoral space given to women will increase when the Women's Reservation Bill is enacted as a law, he added.

He added that if women don't step out of proxy politics, their representation will not be meaningful, comprehensive, or sustained.

Korde, when asked how political parties can contribute towards the development of more women political leaders, voiced that the parties should not limit their contribution to women's wings.

"The Women politicians should be given leadership positions in other party constituents apart from the women's wing. The youth are also politically involved and express their opinions through social media. Such young women should be trained to create future leaders," Korde said.

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Lok Sabha Elections 2024 Maharashtra Lok Sabha elections 2024 India General Elections 2024 mumbai mumbai news maharashtra
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