LUCKNOW Uttar Pradesh that has the distinction of sending the first woman Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi to the Parliament, electing the first woman chief minister Sucheta Kripalani and the first Dalit woman chief minister Mayawati has failed to give adequate representation to women over the years.
Though the total number of women MLAs has grown by over four times – from 11 in the first state assembly (1952-1957) to 44 in the 17th state legislative assembly (2017-2022), the fair sex hasn’t got adequate share in power.
The 18th legislative assembly has 48 women members, which is 11.91% of the total strength of the House. These include 29 women out of 255 MLAs of the BJP, 14 women out of 109 MLAs of the Samajwadi Party, four women of 13 MLAs of the Apna Dal (Sone Lal) and one of the two MLAs of the Congress.
The legislative assembly’s strength has differed from time to time. In recent years, its strength changed during the tenure of the 13th state assembly (1996-2002), when Uttaranchal was carved out of Uttar Pradesh (November 9, 2000). It was reduced from 425 to 404 members (including a nominated member). The state assembly’s effective strength is now 403 members.
The Women’s Reservation Bill introduced on Tuesday, seeking to reserve 33% seats for women in parliament and state legislatures, appears to be the only way out but the state will have to do much more to bring about an improvement in the situation. “The Women’s Reservation Bill is a welcome move. The women, half of the country’s population, should get their due. In the state legislative assembly, we have made efforts to provide them an opportunity to speak, and a day’s business of the 18th legislative assembly was reserved for women. This will boost their confidence,” said Satish Mahana, speaker, UP legislative assembly.
A few political parties came up with the idea of giving more tickets to women but this failed to work in favour of the fair sex in elections. A book brought by the state legislative assembly recently on representation of women pointed out that there were only 25 women out of 2,604 candidates who contested polls for the first state assembly.
In 2017, only 482 women out of 4,853 candidates contested the assembly polls, and 42 emerged winners.
SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav favoured reservation being given to women by political parties, instead of seats being reserved for them. The Congress decided to give 40% tickets to women in 2022 UP assembly elections. Its move neither worked in favour of women nor the party.
Besides poor representation of women in the state legislature, the successive state governments have also not been able to give adequate representation to women in the council of ministers. A look at women’s representation in the successive state cabinets also indicates that the number of women ministers has remained low in the state over the years.
UP’s first council of ministers led by Pt Govind Ballabh Pant did not have representation of women. Pant’s successor Dr Sampoornanand also did not have a woman member in his ministry in his first term as chief minister from December 28, 1954 to April 10, 1957.
As UP chief minister for the second term, Sampoornanand, however, had a woman deputy minister Prakashvati Sood. As chief minister (December 7, 1960 to March 14, 1962), CB Gupta had Sucheta Kripalani as cabinet minister and Prakashvati Sood as deputy minister. As CM of Congress government, Vir Bahadur Singh (September 24, 1985 to June 24, 1988) had six women ministers (16.6% of the strength of ministry) and this was the highest ever number since independence. ND Tiwari had seven women ministers and this was 14.6% of the total strength of the council of ministers.
Women’s representation was 5.2% during the tenure of the Mayawati government, 3.6% during the Mulayam Singh Yadav government and 2.6% in the Akhilesh Yadav government. The Yogi Adityanath government now has four women ministers in the 52-member ministry that includes a cabinet minister, a minister of state (independent charge) and two ministers of state.
The women’s reservation issue first came into focus in 1992 when 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution of India were carried out to reserve 33% seats in panchayati raj institutions and urban local bodies.