The Times of India
Himanshi Dhawan

Some parties and individual MPs may question the need for reserving seats in Parliament for women, but here are some bare truths that should drive home the point. Political parties across the board have a terrible record of giving women a share in political representation. Take the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, for instance. Less than 10% of the total tickets were distributed to women. Of the 8,070 candidates who contested in those polls, only 556 or a mere 7% were women. And among the 543 who were finally elected to the 15th Lok Sabha, only 59 or 11% were women. Ironically, this is the highest proportion ever of women in the Lok Sabha.

Data analysed by the Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch reveals that even within women, power remains the privilege of a few. Of the 59 women MPs, more than two-thirds, 40 to be precise, were crorepatis and 41 are graduates or have higher educational qualifications.

The analysis effectively puts paid to the anti-quota argument that political parties can be trusted with the responsibility of giving greater representation to women. It's clear that the political leadership in most, if not all, parties has not found it necessary to provide women with a platform to dictate policy or make a significant contribution to the process of governance.

Despite swearing that they are all for women's empowerment, major parties, like the Congress and BJP, allotted just about 10% of their tickets to women, while in the lists of the Samajwadi Party and CPM women candidates constituted 8% and 7% respectively. The Mayawati-led BSP and JD(U) did even worse with only 6% and 5% respectively of their candidates being women.

Of the women candidates who ultimately proved successful, 19% or about one in five came from the BSP, 12% from the Congress, 11% from the BJP and 13% from the SP.

Being highly educated and flush with funds certainly seems to help women candidates in getting elected, just as it does with men. Amongst the 59 female MPs, one is a doctorate, 16 are postgraduates, 12 are graduate professionals and 13 are graduates. I

f these facts and trends are not particularly surprising, check this out. Of these 59 MPs, 10 have criminal cases pending against them. That's one in every six (17%). If you are cynically inclined, you might say this just proves that women have what it takes to be a successful politician just as much as men. Of these, 5 are from the Congress, 4 from the BJP and 1 from the Shiv Sena.

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