The NDA government has won the Lok Sabha elections 2019 in a landslide with 303 votes. It even crossed its 2014 mark of 272. During this election cycle, national security, religious tolerance, and economics were widely discussed. However, women’s safety and empowerment took a backseat in the country’s political discourse. Hence, it is welcome news that this year, a record 78 women have been elected to the Lok Sabha.
The country’s top legislative body only 14.36% women when the country’s population is made up of 48% women. However, this 17th Lok Sabha has the most female representation the country has ever had since 1952.
In 2014, 64 women were elected to the Lok Sabha and in 2009, 52 women won seats.
During the 2019 election, a staggering 724 women contested. NDTV reports that the Congress fielded 54 women— the maximum by a single party— and the BJP came in second with 53.
AAP was the only party to field a transgender candidate, however she and four other independent trans women such as Radha from Tamil Nadu did not manage to win any seats.
Other major parties like the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) put forth 24 women candidates, the Communist Party of India (CPI) fielded four, and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) nominated only one. Around 222 women contested independently.
Some of most tense races in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections were fought by women such as Smriti Irani, Sadhvi Pragya, Aatishi, and Mimi Chakraborty.
Smriti Irani, Sadhvi Pragya, and more: key races in Lok Sabha elections 2019
All eyes were on Sadhvi Pragya, a BJP candidate who is on trial for terrorism in the 2008 Malegaon bombing that killed 10 people. She fought— and won— a seat from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, while on bail.
Many hoped that Aam Aadmi Party’s Aatishi would win a seat from East Delhi, especially because she was being praised for changing the face of public education in the area. However, closer to the election, AAP alleged that BJP workers were circulating an “obscene and derogatory” pamphlet on Aatishi and AAP member Manish Sisodia.
Addressing a press conference, Aatishi emotionally said that BJP candidate Gautam Gambhir, who was contesting against her, had asked for the pamphlets to be distributed. The pamphlets called her a “mixed breed”, said she has “only worked as a school teacher” and therefore is unqualified to contest, and insulted her and Sisodia in other ways.
Gambhir denied the claims and offered to withdraw from the elections if AAP was able to prove he ordered the pamphlets to be distributed. He also accused AAP President Arvind Kejriwal himself of circulating the pamphlets and trying to blame him.
In East Delhi, Aatishi devastatingly came in third with 17.44% of the vote while Gambhir won with 55.33%.
In a more amicable race, BJP’s Smriti Irani unseated Congress President Rahul Gandhi from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh. Irani won 50.13% of the vote and beat Gandhi who instead was elected from Wayanad.
Sonia Gandhi took Rae Bareli, a Congress bastion, with 55.8% of votes. However, Congress candidate Urmila Matondkar lost to BJP’s Gopal Shetty in Mumbai North. In Mumbai Central, Poonam Mahajan won the seat with 53.91% of the votes.
TMC candidate Mimi Chakraborty, who is also an actress, won the Jadavpur seat from West Bengal. This seat is prestigious as it has been held by TMC Chief Mamata Banerjee and Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee.
With 47.91% of the vote, Chakraborty was able to wrestle Jadavpur away from Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya from the CPIM that has loyalists in the neighbourhood.
Other celebrities like Hema Malini and Kirron Kher from the BJP and Locket Chatterjee from the TMC were also elected.
17th Lok Sabha has a record 78 women
Of the 542 representatives elected, 78 are women who mostly hail from West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. In UP and Bengal, 104 and 54 women respectively contested the polls and 11 were elected from each poll. Tamil Nadu put up 64 women candidates and Bihar nominated 55.
In terms of elected women MPs, Maharashtra follows UP and Bengal with eight women MPs, Odisha with seven, Gujarat with six, and Madhya Pradesh with four.
The News Minute reports that among UP’s 11 elected candidates, the BJP nominated eight and the Congress, BSP, and Apna Dal nominated one each. In Bengal, the TMC’s candidates were 40% women and nine have been elected to the Lok Sabha. The remaining two belong to the BJP.
South India did not have strong female presentation in the polls.
Only one woman each from Kerala and Telangana was elected. However, Remya Haridas from Alathur has become the second-ever Dalit women to be elected to the parliament from Kerala, reports the News Minute.
Three women from Tamil Nadu— DMK’s Kanimozhi and Thamizahachi and Congress’ Jothimani— made it to parliament, as well. Kanimozhi and Thamizahachi were the DMK’s only women candidates and both proved their mettle this year.
The YSRCP sweeped the state assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh and also field four candidates in the parliamentary elections.
The Deccan Herald reports that the 2019 Lok Sabha elections saw an 8.38% increase in women candidates and a 4.7% reduction in male candidates in comparison to 2014.
In their manifestos, both the BJP and Congress promised 33% or one-third reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas. The BJP has also pledged to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill that will reserve 33% of all governmental positions for women, as well.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius