The Assam Legislative Assembly comprises 126 Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs). The 2021 Assam Legislative Assembly election was the 15th legislative assembly election held from March 27 to April 6 in three phases.
The percentage of women MLAs saw a minimal rise from 4.76% in 1996 to 6.34% in 2016 as the number of women candidates increased. Data from the Election Commission reveals that only 77 women have been elected to the Assam assembly since 1951. Of the 126-member assembly, 8 seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) while 16 are for Scheduled Tribes (STs). Since the last 70 years, only 15 women have been elected on the SC/ST seats.
In the recently held 2021 Assam Assembly Elections, only 7.8% of the total candidates were women. With 74 women of the total 946 candidates, Assam witnessed a drop in number of women candidates as compared to the previous two assembly elections. The 3 major coalitions,, National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by BJP, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by INC and United Regional Front (URF) led by Assam Jatiya Parishad have fielded less than 10% women candidates.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has a total of 9 women candidates; 7 of whom have been nominated by BJP and 2 representing its alliance partner Asom Gana Parishad (AGP).
12 of the 126 candidates of the 10-party Grand Alliance forming the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) are women; with the Congress fielding 9 women candidates in these polls. Other electoral partners of the Congress forming the UPA - All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Bodoland Peoples' Front (BPF), have fielded one women candidate each.
There are 8 women candidates representing the United Regional Front (URF). The Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) leading the URF, has fielded 7 women candidates and its electoral partner, Raijor Dal has given ticket to one woman.
Despite constituting 49.41 per cent of the total numbers of voters and having demonstrated their expertise in local panchayat elections, women of the constituency remain severely under-represented in the assembly. The remarkable performance of the state’s women in local governance can also be attributed to the 50% reservation of seats in the panchayats for women.
Thus, the abysmal numbers of women in politics not only leads to a poor representation of issues affecting women and children, but also hinders long-term growth of the nation. To improve women’s participation in politics, societal and institutional challenges faced by women should be understood and effective mechanisms for their redressal need to be initiated.
(Shruti Vinod is an Intern with Femme First Foundation)