The time for more women in politics is now!

By Nisha Susan

Some weeks ago I was introduced to the Bangalore-based activist Tara Krishnaswamy
by NWMI’s own Ammu Joseph. Since then I have been plunged into a world that
dazzles me with its combination of idealism and pragmatism. A world of people who
believe that we need many more women in politics in India and that there are a
million ways in which we can actually get there.

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The new group, set up by Krishnaswamy and Rajeshree Nagarsekar, was initially,
informally called the Indian Women’s Caucus but it has since then adopted the much
less bewildering name, Shakti. The group came into being soon after co-convenors
Krishnaswamy and Nagarsekar marvelled at the high-voltage energy of a round table
meeting of politically inclined women from seven states that Nagarsekar had
organised in Goa in October.

Shakti’s first task was to organise an event which would allow women in politics –
those already there and those aspiring to it – to discuss the problem and arrive at
solutions. The group, being non-partisan, wanted to ensure that women from across
the political spectrum would come together for the purpose. In a little over a month’s
time, the small group of volunteers led by Krishnaswamy put together Shakti’s first
national event in Bangalore. I wrote about my great sense of optimism and my many
learnings from that day-long event in early December here. (You can also read The
News Minute’s and Nasheman’s detailed reports on the event.)

In the run-up to the event, as I reached out to fellow women journalists, I was also
impressed by their enthusiastic response as well as their professional, considered
opinions about how women are kept out of Lok Sabha and state Assemblies by the
establishment with a fierce determination. A podcast from the New Indian Express
asked, “Given the substantial increase in the number of women in local and Panchayat
roles, why does this trend not translate to more women MLAs and MPs?”

After the event, many of us volunteers felt an odd sense of destiny and urgency, first
with the Congress announcing that they would back the Women’s Reservation Bill
and then with the BJP-led union government listing the Women’s Reservation Bill for
discussion during this winter session of the Lok Sabha. Yes, Shakti had lobbied for
the first and had fervently hoped for the second. But the two pieces of news made it
feel as if the decades of work small groups of women and individuals could now,
finally, be taken at the flood.

My own sense of feeling like I was being swept along in events larger than me was
accentuated by a moving email from an activist from Telangana. In 2015, Jesuis
Aruna had first written to us at The Ladies Finger pointing out that the state’s 19-
minister cabinet had no women in it. We had run a report back then and supported
Aruna’s campaign to not accept the same old fait accompli in the brand-new state.
And once you see it you can’t unsee the all-male political leadership. They were
everywhere from the cabinets to the trade unions, from the fiercest rebel organisations to Bollywood’s meetings with the Prime Minister. I have always been grateful for
Jesuis Aruna writing to a small publication and thus educating us about women’s
unrequited political participation all over India.

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And now, suddenly, the evening before the Shakti event came an email from Aruna.
She noted that, “Time quickly passed by and it is almost three years gone, and
tomorrow there is a election happening in Telangana.” And hoped that this time
#Mahakutami (the TDP, Congress, TJS, CPI alliance) would come into power and the
new government would have women.

And then, a few days later, she wrote again saying that the people’s mandate has
brought TRS back into power. She hoped at the time that the news reports that the
TRS would have at least one woman in the cabinet this time would turn out to be true.
It’s hard not to feel hopeful about the world with lakhs of women like Jesuis Aruna
who believe against all odds in working among their own communities. I am happy to
be able to write about them as a journalist and as a citizen to join campaigns like
Shakti’s current one urging people to call their MP and table that damn bill in
Parliament already. If you are reading this you could call your MP, too. For once, it
will be a phone call that will make you feel extremely happy.

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New state, same old problem for women

By Vanaja C.

The recent Assembly elections in Telangana, the youngest state in India, with 119 Assembly seats, reduced the representation of women in the legislature to less than 5 percent, with only six of the 135 women who contested having won the elections. This amounts to just half the national average for women’s representation in legislative bodies (10 percent in Parliament and state Assemblies put together).

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The result is in tune with a trend that began with the separate statehood movement. It is interesting to see how the movement for separate statehood and advocacy for women in politics have travelled side by side but on parallel tracks and how they have contributed or not contributed to each other.  One cannot say the current outcome was created by design but it is worth noting that it came about so naturally.

Ever since the introduction of the Bill seeking to reserve 33 percent of all seats in Parliament and Legislative Assemblies in the Lok Sabha, there has been an active debate in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh on the need to increase the presence of women in every sphere of politics. Although almost all political parties promptly announced that they were positive about the Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, first introduced in Parliament by the United Front government of H.D. Deve Gowda in 1996 and commonly known as the Women’s Reservation Bill, none of them has walked the talk for over a decade.

The lame excuse was that it would be possible for more women to get elected only if everyone fields a woman in a particular constituency (which would be the case if the Bill, which mandates reserved constituencies for women, came into force). However, this logic was rightly questioned and the demand for a higher number of tickets to be allotted to women without necessarily waiting for legislation to mandate it has been made by every women’s organization in the state as well as many vocal women already in politics.

This finally resulted in a higher allotment of seats to women during the 2009 state Assembly elections. With almost every political party giving tickets to women, more than 200 female candidates were in the fray. Interestingly, not many women had to fight against each other in most constituencies, men were their primary opponents. Thirty six women won and, when the government was formed, six women were inducted into the cabinet.

This was the highest number of women in any cabinet since the creation of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh state in 1956. For the first time a woman was put in charge of the Home Ministry, a prestigious and powerful portfolio that has been invariably held by a man. Women were also given other important portfolios, like mining. Again, this was the first time women had been entrusted with portfolios other than the customary welfare-related ones:  women’s welfare, children’s welfare, social welfare, and so on.   Of the 36 women elected during the 2009 polls, 16 were from the Telangana region; the female Home Minister was also from the same region.

Then came the bifurcation of the state and the 2014 elections.  But before examining those election results, it would be worth looking into the parallel movements for more women in politics and separate statehood for Telangana.  If the demand for women’s representation in politics began in the mid-1990s with the introduction of the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament, the demand for Telangana to be declared a separate state was also renewed (for the second time) around the same period, with some professors, school teachers’ organisations and students taking the initiative. While there was active engagement with the debate on both demands, the two discussions were always on parallel tracks, never together.

When the movement for a separate state intensified, and political parties were playing opportunistic politics, students of Osmania University took the lead, helping the movement spread and become strong.  Students actually showed the way to organise effectively for the cause. All student organisations came together keeping their different political agendas aside and formed a Joint Action Committee (JAC) with the goal of achieving the creation of Telangana. This became a role model for organising in other spheres, too, even for political parties. A political JAC was formed under the chairmanship of Prof Kodandaram.  Almost every wing of Telangana society also formed JACs:  there was an employees’ JAC, a teachers’ JAC, a lawyers’ JAC, and so on. If there were 100 people in a sector there was a JAC.

It is important to note that all these JACs were dominated by men. Women were glaringly missing in all the JACs, except for some token representation in a few.  There was a women’s JAC, which had drawn in women from many sectors, but it was unable to play any major role in the movement. The dialogue in civil society was dominated by the injustice suffered on account of being in a united state and the justice that can be achieved through bifurcation. Women could be seen in large numbers in the Telangana movement, especially in efforts to promote cultural traditions, like playing Batukamma (a festival of flowers revived during the movement) and participating in other age-old festivals, such as Bonalu. Kavitha, daughter of Telangana Rashtra Samithi leader K Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR), had launched Telangana Jagruthi, under which these symbols of cultural identity were revived with the help and participation of women. However, promoting the political empowerment of women was never on the agenda of the organisation.

The movement for separate statehood for Telangana was focused on seeking justice in three major areas: water, funds and employment. Accordingly, every debate was centred around the injustice meted out to the region in these areas. Gender was never identified as an issue even though statistics clearly showed that the status of women in Telangana was weak and that violence against women was much higher in the region than in the rest of Andhra Pradesh.  It must be noted that a few women did consistently raise the question of whether the new state would promise a safer Telangana for women. The question was not answered then but some minor attempts to tackle gender-based violence were made after the formation of the state.

Returning to the 2014 Assembly elections, a total of 317 women stood for elections in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana (the total number of contestants in the fray was 3910).  Only nine women were elected in the first election to take place in the newly formed state of Telangana, seven less than in 2009. At the same time 18 women were elected in the residual Andhra Pradesh, just one less than before. It is important to note that the success rate of female candidates was higher than that of males: 8.52 (women), 7.41 (men).

In the parallel general elections of 2014, while three women were elected to the Lok Sabha from the residual Andhra Pradesh, there was only one female Member of Parliament from Telengana: Kavitha, daughter of KCR, the TRS leader.

Interestingly, Dalit political empowerment was one of the election promises of the TRS. The party had even said they would make a Dalit the first Chief Minister of the state. Of course, this topic was never discussed after the elections and party head KCR went on to become the CM. It is important to note that there was not even lip service to women’s empowerment in general and women’s political empowerment in particular in the party’s agenda before or after the elections.

The most heartbreaking development was that the new state, which took charge from the united state that had six women ministers, did not give a single cabinet position to women.  Women’s organisations cried foul but nobody cared. During the entire term of four and a half years (the recent Telangana elections were precipitated by the dissolution of the Assembly in September 2018, before its term ended), never was a woman inducted into the cabinet despite the fact that the cabinet was expanded a couple of times, not to mention that portfolios were shuffled and new male members were inducted. Even women’s welfare was handed over to a high profile male minister, along with Roads and Buildings; he obviously never recognised women’s welfare as his portfolio since he took no initiative or action on that front.

The new government did announce a committee for women’s safety with an IAS officer, Poonam Malakondayya, chairing it.  She organised meetings and consultations over three months and produced an extensive report on what needed to be done. However, most of the committee’s recommendations were never followed up. Later, a joint initiative of women’s welfare and the police was launched with SHE teams meant to curb “eve teasing” in Hyderabad city but plans to extend it to the rest of the state are still pending. Another women-related initiative was the bifurcation of seats in city buses, with iron grills between men and women. Yet another initiative involved increasing the government’s cash gift to girls at the time of marriage – from Rs 50,000 to Rs one lakh. But, significantly, no special initiative was introduced to promote women’s education. Meanwhile, Telengana continues to pop up in every other survey/statistical report released by government and non-governmental agencies as one of the top places in the country that is unsafe for women in terms of both gender violence and gender-based discrimination.

By the time the 2018 Assembly elections came around, every political party had conveniently forgotten about their promise regarding reservations for and promotion of women in politics. Women were allotted very few seats in the recent Assembly elections.

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The ruling TRS had given only four tickets (out of 119, which is less than four percent) to women; significantly, three of them won (which translates into a 75 percent success rate). The Congress-led political front had given 12 tickets to women, while the BJP issued 14 B forms to women and the Bahujan-Left Front fielded another 10 women, including a transgender person. One more woman contested from the BSP. This meant that political parties together put up only 41 candidates for 119 seats.  However, a large number of women contested as independent candidates, put off by the attitudes of the political parties. So a total of 135 women stood for election, forming less than 10 percent of the total of 1,821 candidates in the fray. Women representing the Congress-led Front put up a tough fight and lost to their rivals with very slim margins. BJP candidates – both women and men – did not fare well. None of the women who stood as independent candidates won seats.

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Another interesting but heartbreaking part of the recent elections in Telengana is that women voters outnumbered men in many constituencies even though the number of female voters was slightly less than the number of male voters across the entire state taken as a whole. Telangana has a very high number of female-headed families, with husbands having died in the process of migration or due to suicide (usually related to the crisis in farming) or alcoholism;  or, of course, having left the family to seek other pleasures in life.

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It is not known whether the higher turnout of registered women voters this year is related to the high proportion of female-headed families.  But the fact is that as many as 55 of the 119 Assembly constituencies have higher numbers of female voters than male voters.  The gap is particularly visible in a couple of constituencies. Despite this none of the political parties thought of fielding women at least in women-dominated constituencies. Needless to say, every political party had done careful calculations and given tickets taking into account the strength of the community – aka caste – in each Assembly constituency. None of the political decision-makers seem to have thought that women, who constitute 50 percent and sometimes more than 50 percent of the voters, were important enough to be considered a politically significant segment of society.

Having won the recent elections with a good majority, TRS has formed the second consecutive government in the state, with the promise of building Golden Telangana again. The swearing-in ceremony had the Chief Minister along with a Deputy Chief Minister taking oath. A week later, calculations are still on to accommodate all castes according to their relative strength while constituting the cabinet.  The media are coming up with stories every day with their own calculations and guesstimates based on internal sources. No woman’s name has been heard yet.  And no wonders are being expected in view of past experience. The question of whether the new state will be safe for women and promote the empowerment of women still remains a big question.

 

(Charts by Urvashi Sarkar)

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Elections 2018: Number of women MLAs down to 9% from 11% in 2013-’14

 

Women in Assemblies

 

Fewer women MLAs find place in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh assemblies this time

 

Also in Telengana, evidently (watch this space for a detailed comment on that in a couple of days).

 

Assembly Elections 2018: Decline in women and Muslim candidates, says think tank

 

And, as is to be expected under the circumstances:

 

It is going to be an all-male cabinet: Zoramthanga

 

The good news is that such stories are appearing in the media now.  Clearly the representation of women in politics, Parliament and Legislative Assemblies is beginning to be seen as a matter of concern.

Time to take women voters seriously

Ammu Joseph

Not BJP, not Congress:  Women voters are real winners today,” claimed the headline of a December 12 article that highlights the fact that female voters outnumbered men in a significant number of constituencies in the recent elections to the state assemblies of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram.

According to Richard Mahapatra, “Women are the new-found constituency of politicians for sure-shot victory.  In a country where woman representatives are only a few, who too are accepted with contempt, they have become a force that is going to redefine electoral politics of the world’s largest democracy.”

Image from CSE article

What can explain this trend and what is its significance?  Are women now seen as a political constituency worth taking seriously?  Will the growing power of the female vote make political parties pay due attention to the demand for a more gender balanced Parliament and more representative Legislative Assemblies?

In an earlier, related article, headlined “It will take 55 years to have one-third women representatives in Parliament,” Mahapatra observed that “notwithstanding this much desirable electoral trend, what surprises us is the diametrically opposite presence of women lawmakers—hardly 7 to 8 per cent in state assemblies and around 11 per cent in Parliament.”

As he points out, in 56 years, India’s Lok Sabha has not been able to double its tally of elected women representatives. In 1962, women constituted just 6 per cent of the members of the lower house of Parliament;  in 2014, women made up just 11 per cent of all members.

Judging by the poor representation of women among candidates during the recent state elections (see blog posts below on the situation in Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram, for example), political parties are still not inclined to field women for election.  However, as this November 2018 article by Kundan Pandey, headlined “Political parties try to bank on women’s electoral strength,” points out, they are trying hard to woo women voters by making a range of promises in separate manifestos/vision documents and offering goods and services, not to mention loans, to persuade women to vote for them.

What will it take for parties to be convinced that equal representation is a more persuasive way to assure women that they matter as citizens?

 

Decoding gender in Mizoram elections

Contrary to popular perception, the North Eastern states of India are as patraiarchal as the rest of the country, says an editorial in the Assam Tribune. Figures show that fewer women candidates are fielded in elections in the seven states. And even fewer candidates wield actual power. This piece takes a deeper look into the recent assembly polls in Mizoram. 

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Credit: Nasreen Habib

This piece was first published in the Assam Tribune (1st December, 2018)

By Nasreen Habib

The sort of coverage the recent Assembly Elections in Mizoram received in the national media has been unprecedented. Some have commented that the Northeast is no longer the periphery it was thought to be, there is increasing interest in the politics and culture of the North Eastern states, unlike earlier where the focus shifted to the region only in the case of a bomb blast or ethnic violence. However, as soon as the elections are going to be over, the coverage of the North East too will wane, except when there is an unusual event such as the dethroning of Lenin’s statue in Tripura or, predictably, incidents of violence. So, if we look more closely, the narrative has stayed the same, one of conflict and violence. It is as if the region merits no long-term engagement or exploration into local issues, such as erosion in Assam (7.6 percent of Assam’s land has been eroded in the last 10 years). The elections in Mizoram have also brought out one factor that was relatively unknown, that the North East is as misogynist as the rest of India. In the last Assembly elections, in matrilineal Meghalaya, no woman MLA was inducted into the Cabinet, and in Nagaland, no woman MLA has been elected to the Assembly so far! In Mizoram, the statistics are only marginally better – four women have been elected to the State Legislative Assembly in its 46 years as a State.

In the last Assembly elections in 2013, political parties had nominated only three women candidates. In the recent Assembly elections held on November 28, 2018, the number of women candidates has gone up to 15. However, if we mull over the fact that the only strong candidate who has a realistic chance at winning is Vanlalawmpuii Chawngthu, the only woman in the assembly who is also a minister, then the scenario is no less bleak than before. 200 candidates had filed for nominations, and only 15 of them are women. Mizoram is one of the states in the country where the representation of women in politics is among the lowest. Chawngthu is the first Mizo woman to be a minister in the State Government and she is also the general secretary of the Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee. Again, though a powerful minister with a stronghold on regional politics, her father was a former minister who aided her growth in the party. The newly formed party, the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), has fielded two women candidates, both of whom come from political families. Zaichhawna Hlawndoan evangelist who is the president of another formation, Zoram Thar, is fighting the Assembly elections in ‘the name of god’. His two daughters — Lalhrilzeli and Lalruatfeli — both educated in the UK, are contesting from two seats. Dynasty politics, like in the rest of the country, and indeed all over the world, has sunk its roots in Mizoram as well.  The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded six women candidates but as the national party has minimal presence in Christian-dominated Mizoram, there are doubts if any of their candidates will make the cut. The only encouraging news is that the party has included two women in leardership roles — Zohmingliani as the vice president and Lalrinkimi as the secretary.

Zoramthanga, former CM and president of the Mizo National Font has clearly said: “If we had a strong woman candidate, we would have nominated her. But unfortunately our party does not have one. No woman contested on an MNF ticket in the 2013 Assembly polls either. Nor will there be a woman candidate this time.” It interesting to note that in a State where women are visible everywhere, from plying on the roads with two-wheelers, picking up children from school, running small businesses, to toiling on the fields and in offices, there are no ‘strong’ women found competent to contest. It is pertinent to mark that when the call for votes comes from politicians, there is no gender imbalance. They ask for votes from the masses, both men and women. In Mizoram, more than half of the electorate is made up of women, yet there is little representation of that in the Assembly. As a representative democracy, the elected representatives cannot represent the voices of men in overwhelming numbers.

What is the solution, then? For a start, all political parties, across the spectrum, need to acknowledge the need for inclusive politics and involve women in decision-making roles. Political parties must also address the elephant in the room – reservation for women — not only in the Parliament but also within political parties. There is 33 per cent reservation for women in Gaon Panchayats across the country, in Assam it goes up to 50 per cent, and though there are instances when a woman representative is only the executioner whereas the real power rests elsewhere, mostly with a husband, it has to be acknowledged that this is only the beginning. As more and more women enter the system through some form of preferential treatment initially, politics will be strengthened by the views and inputs from the other half of the population. At a time of sweeping global change and plummeting economies, we cannot afford to ignore women’s voices, which may bring in the revolution we are waiting for. The future, as they say, is female.

A step forward in Odisha

By Rakhi Ghosh

The Odisha State Assembly recently passed a unanimous resolution seeking 33 per cent reservation for women in state Legislative Assemblies and Parliament. The resolution was passed by a voice vote after a debate in the House. The major Opposition parties – both Congress and Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) – supported the resolution but later expressed doubts over the motive of the state government in bringing in the resolution ahead of the Assembly election due to be held in Odisha in 2019, concurrent with the general election.

The chief whip of the Congress in the state said the party has no objection if women get 33 per cent reservation in state assemblies and parliament, but added that it felt the move was aimed at influencing women voters. 

While initiating the debate on the resolution, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik cited the leadership qualities of two tribal women of the state:  Mamata Padiami, a young college student from Kalimela in Malkangiri district, and Jayanti Ekka, a grassroots entrepreneur from Sundergarh district.

During a meeting as part of the Ama Gaon Ama Bikash programme at the Secretariat, Mamata Padiami had requested the CM (through a video conference) to increase health insurance for women under the state’s Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY) from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 7 lakh. The Odisha government, which did not allow the implementation of the central government’s Ayushman Bharat scheme in the state, instead launched the BSKY, a universal health coverage scheme aiming to benefit to around 3.5 crore people from over 70 lakh families in the state.

Jayanti Ekka, who is the president of the federation of self-help groups in Sundergarh district, was invited to share her success story at the recent Make in Odisha conclave in the state capital, Bhubaneswar, in the presence of Naveen Patnaik. Jayanti shared the story of how she had brought together over 15,000 women to produce gram flour, an initiative that has helped to improve the economic status of tribal women of her block, Balishankara, in Sundergarh. Making an appeal to the legislative assembly to extend support to the resolution, Patnaik said, “No household, no society, no state and no country has ever moved forward without empowering its women.”

In early 1992, during the chief ministership of the late Biju Patnaik (father of the present CM, Naveen Patnaik), the then Janata Dal government had for the first time reserved 33 per cent of seats in local bodies for women. Before the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act came into force in 1993, the Odisha government had already conducted panchayati raj elections (in 1992), with 33 per cent of the seats reserved for women.

Later, in 2011, the Odisha state legislature unanimously gave its nod to the Orissa Panchayat Laws (Amendment) Bill 2011, amending the Orissa Gram Panchayat Act 1964, the Orissa Panchayat Samitee Act 1959 and the Orissa Zilla Parishad Act 1991 to enhance the quota for women from the existing 33 per cent to 50 per cent. This helped thousands of women candidates to contest three-tier panchayat elections as well as municipal elections and get elected.

Odisha Panchayat elections 2017

Lines waiting to vote in panchayat elections in Odisha.

The resolution which was recently approved unanimously by the members of state assembly has now been sent for central government approval. This resolution could well have an impact on the Women’s Reservation Bill, which has been pending in the Parliament since 1996.

Now that Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik has shown interest in ensuring 33 per cent reservation for women in the state assembly as well, his political party (Biju Janata Dal) should demonstrate commitment to the cause by fielding more women candidates in the forth-coming Assembly election. At present there are only 12 women MLAs in the state Assembly. If  the BJD comes to power again in the state – for the fifth time – having enabled more women candidates to contest the assembly election, there will be a good chance that the number of elected women representatives will increase.           

The resolution is undoubtedly a first step towards providing political space to female elected representatives across party lines, and changing the hitherto skewed representation in the State Assembly.  However, it also leaves many questions to be answered. Real empowerment of women will take place when elected women are given ministerial portfolios that are considered prestigious and powerful, such as finance, revenue and energy. In the past, women politicians  have been forced to be satisfied with being  ministers looking after Women & Child Development, Handlooms & Handicrafts and other  departments viewed as less important. The time has come to not stop at passing a resolution to provide 33 per cent reservation in Assembly seats but also ensure that female political representatives are given powerful positions in ministries and other decision-making bodies.

Equally important is the task of creating an enabling environment and increasing acceptance of women’s leadership among men. Another important move would be to ensure women’s presence in various standing committees.

Also, 33 per cent should not be seen as a ceiling;  considering that women make up nearly half the population, they should be given a chance to contest  an increasing number of seats.

The BJD must also ensure that the party gives tickets to candidates – both men and women – taking into consideration the heterogeneity of the population and the traditional marginalization of certain sections of society (such as Dalits, Adivasis and other socially and economically disadvantaged communities). Women from tribal, Dalit and other vulnerable communities should get equal representation in the legislature and their voices must be respected. Otherwise, there is every chance that women’s political representation will also be reduced to just filling seats rather than truly serving society. It is a fact that many elected women representatives of Panchayati Raj institutions in the state still struggle to stand out due to the dominance of the patriarchal order.     

Mizoram’s missing women politicians

By Kalpana Sharma

Mizoram has more women voters than men — 51.25% of the total number of voters. Yet, when they cast their votes for the Assembly election on November 28, it is unlikely that the number of women voted to elective office will change dramatically.

MIZOWOMEN

Women getting their fingers marked before casting their votes in Aizawl in 2014.

It was heartening to hear, when candidates filed their nominations in the run up to this election, that for the first time 15 women were standing.  Of these, six are candidates for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which barely has a presence in the state – although it is trying hard this time, but only one from the ruling Congress party. The latter is someone who also won a previous election.  Without the backing of a major party, most women have no chance of winning.

In its 46 years as a state, Mizoram has only elected four women to the state assembly.  However, its record is much better than neighbouring Nagaland, where not a single woman has been elected to the state assembly after it became a state in 1963, and only one woman has been elected to Parliament: Rano Shaiza in 1977.

However, as the few news reports about the Mizoram elections have revealed, dynastic politics that afflicts the rest of India is also at play in Mizoram when it comes to the choice of women candidates, as this report in The Hindu clarifies. For instance, the only woman fielded by the Congress Party, Vanlalmpuii Chawngthu, is the daughter of a former minister who is currently the general secretary of the Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee.  She has been elected once before and was the first Mizo woman to be a minister in the state government.

Even Zoram Thar, a relatively new political formation that is headed by an evangelist, Rev. Zaichhawna Hilawndo, and is contesting 24 seats, is bitten by the same bug.  It has fielded five women candidates, all of whom are “family”.  Two of the five are Rev. Hilawndo’s daughters, while the other three are his neighbours.

Rev Hilawndo told the reporter of The Hindu, apparently without any sense of irony, “Ours is a new group guided by divinity to clean up the corrupt political system and establish God’s government.”

The participation of women in electoral politics in some of the northeastern states like Nagaland and Mizoram poses interesting insights into their society.  If you travel through these states, you see women everywhere — in the paddy fields, minding shops, selling fresh produce on the roadside, weaving, cooking, cleaning.

Yet, in local politics, women are invisible. There are no prominent women in the existing regional parties, or the national parties that have a presence in these states.  Although there are prominent and outspoken women in many other sectors, so far, they are not to be seen in electoral politics.

This is such an obvious story for anyone covering the elections in Mizoram.  But it has not caught the attention of any reporters barring this one that appeared in The Hindu today:

https://www.thehindu.com/elections/mizoram-assembly-elections-2018/mizoram-assembly-elections-2018-little-room-for-women/article25591748.ece