Women, Muslim lawmakers’ numbers dwindle

The representation of women and Muslims further dwindled in the country’s legislatures with lesser numbers getting the mandate in the latest edition of Assembly elections.

An initial analysis showed that 50 women were elected to the five Assemblies — Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa — compared to 59 in 2012 while the number of Muslim lawmakers had a drastic reduction from 76 to 28.

women

The main reason for the sharp decline in Muslim lawmakers was due to the thumping victory of BJP in Uttar Pradesh where it fielded not a single candidate from the minority community.

There were 71 Muslim MLAs in the outgoing UP Assembly, with SP and BSP together accounting for around 60. This has now declined to around 25 despite BSP, predominantly a party of Dalits, fielding nearly 100 candidates out of 403.

Of the newly-elected Muslim MLAs, 16 are from the SP while 7 belong to BSP and Congress 2 in Uttar Pradesh.

Political analysts points to communal polarisation for such a dismal show by Muslim candidates. They accuse both BJP and regional parties Samajwadi Party and BSP as well as Congress for communal polarisation.

The CPI(M) Polit Bureau said the BJP victory in UP was due to a “mix of rank communal appeal and by putting together a wide ranging caste coalition”. It said, “while acknowledging the massive mandate that the BJP has received, it also has implications that are dangerous for the country as it will encourage the brand of Hindutva politics which is divisive and harmful for the country.”

Echoing this view, the CPI said the results were a “big setback” to secular and democratic forces in the country.

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Nota Vote

Around 9.34 lakh voters in five states — UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur — felt that none of the over 6,500 candidates were worth their vote. They opted the ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option to express their disapproval of the candidates in fray in their respective constituencies.

Of the 9.34 lakh NOTA voters, Goa had the highest proportion with 1.2% followed by 1 per cent in Uttarakhand. While UP had 0.9% of its voters choosing NOTA, Punjab had 0.7% and Manipur 0.5% voters choosing not to vote for any particular candidate. In numbers, UP had 7.56 lakh such voters followed by Punjab 1.08 lakh.

Goa — 10,882 (1.2%)
Manipur — 8,563 (0.5%)
Punjab — 1,08,157 (0.7%)
Uttarakhand — 50,408 (1%)
UP — 7,56,506 (0.9%)

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On the women front, Punjab could elect only six women to its new Assembly while in 2012, it had chosen 16. Uttarakhand chose five women to its Assembly. It had five MLAs in the outgoing Assembly also. Uttar Pradesh has chosen 37 women, up from 35 in the previous assembly.

These elections have seen lesser number of women candidates compared to the previous polls. Manipur had just 11 women while Goa had 18, Uttarakhand 56 and Uttar Pradesh 344. They accounted for less than 7.75% of over 6,500 candidates.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 12, 2o17)

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