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Updated: May 5, 2014 00:18 IST

Tickets for women expand female representation

Rukmini S.
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No woman is contesting 200 of the 494 seats in which outgoing MP is a man

Women are far more likely to contest seats where the incumbents are women, The Hindu’s analysis of candidate data for 2014 has shown.

These findings are in line with The Hindu’s findings from the December 2013 Assembly elections in five States — Delhi, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram. Then too, the proportion of women candidates in seats where the outgoing MLAs were woman, was far higher than in seats where the outgoing MLAs were men.

Over 600 women have filed their nominations for the Lok Sabha election, according to data from the Election Commission and the Association for Democratic Reforms, a small increase over 2009. Of the 59 constituencies in which incumbents are women, at least one woman is contesting in each of the 54, or 92 per cent of them, The Hindu found. On the other hand, no woman is contesting 200 of the 494 constituencies in which the outgoing MPs are men; women are contesting only 60 per cent of these constituencies. (Data for 2009 and 2014 alone was used for this analysis because of the delimitation process that altered electoral boundaries in 2008.)

This is partly driven by the slightly higher propensity of political parties to re-nominate women than men in 2014, though women form 10 per cent of the incumbents and less than 10 per cent of new candidates. The economists Sonia Bhalotra of the University of Essex, Irma Clots-Figueras of the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and Lakshmi Iyer of Harvard Business School found similarly in their analysis of Assembly election data for 16 States between 1980 and 2007. They found that women were more likely to be fielded by major parties in seats in which the incumbent were woman, but this was primarily driven by the higher rates of re-nomination of women, they told The Hindu.

But it isn’t incumbents alone driving the 2014 trend; every constituency in which the incumbent was a woman, had nearly two women contesting on average, while each constituency in which the incumbent was a man had one on average.

In addition to re-nominating incumbents, parties also appear to respond to competition. A look at the candidate selection for 2014 shows that when a major party decides to give the ticket to a woman instead of its male incumbent, rival parties often respond by giving women ticket too.

In 2009, for example, the Congress candidate for Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan was Sis Ram Ola. Since Mr. Ola passed away, the party gave his daughter-in-law, Rajbala Ola, the ticket this time. Immediately, the number of woman candidates in the constituency rose from one — Ravita Sharma from the little-known Rashtra Bhakt Dal — to five, including the BJP and the BSP.

Spokespersons for the Congress and the BJP told The Hindu that all parties needed to do more to expand women’s political representation and that they supported 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament for this purpose. While parties sometimes nominate a woman when the rival candidate is also woman, it may also go the other way, BJP national spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said.

“Sometimes a party may react by putting forward a very strong male candidate instead to defeat the woman. So there is no fixed trend as such,” she said.

(This is third of a series of analytical articles)

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