Women and Electoral Process in Jammu & Kashmir

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The relationship between women and politics never has been considered smooth and fine. Politics is the field where women never been welcomed especially in a society like ours. Though women continue to choose the traditional roles of home-maker and civilized citizen still she is not interested in the politics. In Jammu and Kashmir the electoral history shows us that women have no direct role in politics. The non-political approach of women towards the issues keeps on in every election.

Women obviously contribute less in the politics as a voter in general and as a candidate in particular. If we compare the voting percentage of women with that of men from 1972 elections to 2002 assembly elections we find a wide gap between the percentages of both. In 1972 women voter turn out was 53.92% as compared to 69.27% of men, there was a huge gap of 15.35 % between them. In 1977 elections, the women voting percentage was 60.39 and it was less than 12.75 % than the men voter turn out. In 1983 and 1987 the situation has been changed to encouraging when 70.48 and 70.36% of women cast their votes compared to 75.56 and 78.65 % of men respectively. In 1996 elections only 46.08% women cast their votes in comparison to 60.57% of men and in 2002 elections which were consider as the free and the fairest elections the difference between the voting percentages somehow declined to slight a bit, the figures shows that in comparison to 38.27% of women voter turn out 48.26% men cast their votes.

On the other hand if we look at the women participation in the electoral process as a candidate, it is negligible. The figures are not very impressive, in 1972 only eight women had contested elections and four of them won, rest even lost their deposits. The interesting factor here is that only one political party (Indian National Congress) put four women candidates and all of them won the elections, other four were independent candidates. In 1977 the number goes down to four and only one managed to won the elections. Out of four candidates three represents the Janta Party and one was an independent. In 1983 out of seven candidates who fought the election not a single managed to won and even six of them lost their deposits. In 1987 and 1996 thirteen and seventeen women were in fray but only one and two were won the elections respectively, the vital point here is that in 1987 all the women candidates represents the constituencies of the Jammu region and out of thirteen nine were independent candidates, four represents Jammu Kashmir Panthers Party and one who won the election was Indian National Congress candidate. In 2002 assembly elections the highest number of women candidates came forward to participate in the elections, they were thirty in number but poignant aspect is that only two managed to won the elections and twenty six lost their deposits. The two women candidates who won the elections were Mehbooba Mufti of Peoples democratic Party and Suman Lata Bhagat of Indian National Congress.

All the above statistics shows the real picture regarding the women participation in the active politics of the Jammu and Kashmir. As a voter, women participation in the election process is quite fine even though it is not as good as the men voter turnout. Women come forward to cast their vote despite in the absence of mobilization regarding their identity as women. Till now only ten women entered the state legislature assembly as its member from 1972 to 2002. No political party in the state ever seen interested in putting women as its candidates for the elections. Women’s participation in electoral process is never persuaded by the political parties and no political party ever tried to encourage the women not as a contestant and not also as a voter. In a conflict ridden state where the women is dual victim of violence, women never been a constituency for the political parties. Not even a single party raise concerns related to women in the elections just because there is absolute nonexistence of sense of mobilization as a women.

Women constituted half of the population still maintaining an unobtrusive position. There is an urgent need to encourage the political participation of women. The decision taken by the Jammu and Kashmir state regarding the 33 percent reservation for women in recently held Municipal Corporation elections is a first step in this regard. Even though initially political parties have shown some discontentment over the decision but the response is overwhelming. Over 150 women fight the elections and 47 women members in both the corporations are now representing the reserved wards. But this is not enough, the political empowerment of women is still a long way to go.

There is a need to understand that political participation of women is important not only as voter but also as contestant for the real functioning of the democracy.

 

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