Only 77 women have been elected to the Assam assembly since 1951, with just 15 elected on SC/ST seats, data from the Election Commission of India shows. Analysts say while India was one of the first few countries to have a woman prime minister and several political parties have had women bosses, female participation in politics remains stubbornly low and most parties have an unimpressive record when it comes to promoting women — particularly those from disadvantaged groups — as potential fellow leaders.
Assembly elections are being held in Assam in three phases from March 27, with the second round on April 1 and the third on April 6. The votes will be counted on May 2. There are 264 candidates in the fray for phase one, including 25 (9.46 per cent) women. In phase two, out of 345 candidates, 26 (7.53 per cent) are women. In the third phase, there are 337 contestants, including 27 (eight per cent) women.
While no woman was elected in the 1951 Assam assembly polls, eight (6.34 percent) won the 2016 elections. A record 14 (11.11 per cent) women were elected in the 2011 polls, the Election Commission of India data says.
In the 1957 assembly elections, six women were in the fray and five (5.31 per cent) of them won.
In the next assembly polls in 1962, four women were in the fight and all were elected.
In the 1967 elections, out of the six women in the fray, two lost their deposits and four were elected to the assembly. While 12 women contested the 1972 assembly elections, none made it to the House.
In the next assembly polls in 1978, there were 22 women in the fight but only one managed to make it to the House while 15 lost their deposits.
Two women made it to the assembly in 1983, out of the three contesting. The third woman lost her deposit.
A total of 16 women were elected to the House between 1957 and 1983 and all were from the Congress. In the 1985 and 1991 elections, five women each were elected to the House. While 29 women were fielded in 1985 polls, of which 19 lost their deposits, there were 50 women in the fray in 1991, with 41 losing their deposits.
Out of the five elected in 1985, three were independent contestants while two were from the Congress. Of those elected in 1991, three were from the Congress while one was an independent candidate. One woman was from the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP).
Six women made it to the House in 1996 of the 45 contesting. Thirty-three of them lost their deposits. This time, three women were from the Congress, one independent and two were from the AGP.
In 2001, the number of women elected to the House reached double digits for the first time as 10 (7.93 per cent) women were elected to the House out of the 55 in the fray. As many as 30 women lost their deposits. Seven of those elected in 2001 were from the Congress while one was from the NCP and two others were independent candidates.
The picture got better in the 2006 and 2011 assembly polls when 13 and 14 women, respectively, were elected to the 126-member assembly.
There were 70 women in the fight in 2006, with 45 losing their deposits. Out of the 85 women in the fray in 2011, 57 lost their deposits.
In 2006, eight women were elected to the Assam assembly from the Congress. One woman was elected from the BJP while two women were from the AGP and two were independent women MLAs.
Among those elected in 2011, 11 were from the Congress and two were independent contestants. One woman from the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) was elected to the House.
In the 2016 assembly polls, eight women were elected to the assembly while 91 were in the fray. At least 62 women lost their deposits.
In 2016, two women each were elected from the BJP and the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) and three were elected from the Congress. One AGP woman candidate also made it to the House.
The state has seen only one woman chief minister in the past 70 years and that too for just six months — Syeda Anwara Taimur from December 1980 to June 1981.
Eight seats of the 126 in the Assam assembly are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) while 16 are for Scheduled Tribes (STs).
Since 1951, only 15 women have been elected on the SC/ST seats.
Four women have been elected to the SC seats — one each in 2016, 2011, 2006 and 1985.
A total of 11 women have been elected on the seats reserved for the ST community — one each in 2016, 2001, 1991, 1985 and 1957. Two women have been elected each in 2011, 2006 and 1996 on ST seats.
Among political parties, the Congress has given most women MLAs to the House. Of the 77 woman legislators elected to the House since 1951, 53 (68.83 per cent) have been from the Congress. While 11 (14.28 per cent) independent women candidates have been elected to the assembly, only three (3.89 per cent) BJP MLAs have been women. Six (7.79 per cent) AGP MLAs have been women and one (1.29 per cent) from the AIUDF.