On Monday, a woman Chief Minister was added to India’s political world. With Peoples Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti taking over as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir on Monday, the state has got its first woman CM. She will also be the second Muslim woman to head a state in India – the first was Syeda Anwara Taimur of the Congress who became the chief minister of Assam in 1980.
With this, the number of women CMs presently in power has gone up to five. The other chief ministers are J. Jayalalithaa (Tamil Nadu), Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Vasundhra Raje (Rajasthan) and Anandiben Patel (Gujarat). In India’s long political history, only a total of 16 women have served as Chief Ministers. Of the 29 states and seven Union territories, only 11 states and one UT have seen woman chief ministers in the last seven decades. Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Delhi have had two women chief ministers. Haryana and Himachal Pradesh are yet to have a woman chief minister.
In terms of participation of women as candidates, India is way behind more backward countries of South Asia. It’s ironic that even conservative Muslim countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh have higher female representation. In 2009, the Union cabinet approved an increase in reservation for women from 33 to 50 per cent in Panchayati Raj institutions. However, the bill for women’s reservation in legislatures has been pending in Parliament. Historically, parties have always given fewer tickets to women stating that it is difficult for them to win. However, facts reveal a different story. In 2014, it was discovered that while women were 7.9 per cent of total candidates, but 11.6 per cent of elected MPs.
We hope that the appointment of Ms. Mufti paves the way for greater political engagement by the women of the country. It is only when women participate more in political spheres, can we expect changes to be made for India to be a gender-just society.
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