Against tall claims made by political parties about women’s empowerment and reservation in legislature, only 17 women are among the 239 candidates in the fray for 20 seats going to polls in the first phase of Lok Sabha elections in Rajasthan. Polling for these seats will take place on April 17.

Congress has fielded six women, including three sitting MPs, while the BJP has nominated just one woman candidate in the poll battle’s first phase. The 10 other women contestants include the youngest candidate, 26-year-old Urmila, fighting on Megh Desham Party’s ticket from Jhunjhunu.

In the 2009 general elections, there were 31 women candidates for all the 25 seats in Rajasthan. About 2.01 crore women, along with 2.25 crore men, will exercise their franchise during the 16 Lok Sabha elections in the desert State this year.

The Congress candidates are Union Ministers Girija Vyas (Chittorgarh) and Chandresh Kumari Katoch (Jodhpur), Jyoti Mirdha (Nagaur), Resham Malviya (Banswara), Rajbala Ola (Jhunjhunu) and Munni Godara (Pali).

Ms. Vyas was earlier Chairperson of the National Commission for Women, while Ms. Mirdha is the granddaughter of veteran Jat leader, late Nathuram Mirdha, and had made a successful debut in 2009. Ms. Godara is the daughter of sitting Pali MP Badri Ram Jakhar.

Ms. Ola, daughter-in-law of former Union Minister, late Sis Ram Ola, was nominated through an nternal referendum in Congress. Ms. Malviya’s husband Mahendrajit Singh Malviya was a Minister in the previous Ashok Gehlot regime.

In the BJP camp, only Santosh Ahlawat has been fielded from Jhunjhunu to contest mainly against Ms. Ola of Congress and former deputy chief of Army staff, Lt. Gen. Raj Kadyan, of Aam Aadmi Party. Ms. Ahlawat, who has worked in the field of education, is at present a BJP MLA from Surajgarh.

The BJP insiders feel that the defeat of all the three women nominees fielded in the previous Lok Sabha polls might have deterred the party leadership from putting forth more women candidates this time. Congress had last time fielded five women candidates, of whom three won.