Chhattisgarh: State With Highest Percentage of Women MLAs Gears Up For Elections

Since its first assembly election as a separate state in 2003, Chhattisgarh has seen a steady increase in the number of women contestants as well as the number of elected women representatives

Chhattisgarh is all set to elect its new state legislature this month. In an election held over two phases, November 7 and November 17, voters in the state will elect Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) for its 90 member assembly. Of these, 29 seats are reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs) and 10 for Scheduled Castes (SCs).

This election, women’s votes will be significant – for the first time in Chhattisgarh’s history as a separate state, women voters are outnumbering male voters. However, in the first phase of elections for 20 seats, only 11% (25) of the total candidates are women, 32% of them contesting as independents, according to an analysis by the Chhattisgarh Election Watch and ADR of the self-sworn affidavits of all 223 candidates.  The two main parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress (INC), have fielded three women each while the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has fielded only one in the 15 seats it is contesting. In the 12 constituencies of Bastar region that go to polls in the first phase, only 8 women candidates are contesting- 7 from political parties and 1 as an independent.

Chhattisgarh, along with Jharkhand and West Bengal, has the highest proportion of women MLAs among all state assemblies – 18% of its legislators are women. The number of women candidates contesting elections has steadily risen — from 7.5% in 2003 to 10% in 2018. 

We parse through the data to decode women’s political participation through the state’s history.

Highest Proportion of Women MLAs

Chhattisgarh elected the highest ever number of women MLAs in the last election in 2018: 16 MLAs in the 90-member state legislature are women, a number that is a significant rise over the first assembly election in 2003 when only five women were elected. In the subsequent two elections, women elected doubled (11 in 2008 and 10 in 2013). In the 2018 elections, all the women MLAs won with more than a 30% vote share. Lakshmi Dhruw (INC) from Sihava Constituency won with the highest vote share among the women candidates, at 56%.  She won with a 29% margin and with 47% of the total electorate in the constituency voting for her.

Source: Trivedi Centre for Political Data collated by Behanbox

Among women MLAs who were elected more than once are Renu Jogi (INC) from Kota who was elected for three terms, former women and child minister Lata Usendi  (BJP) from Kondagaon (ST), Renuka Singh from Premnagar, Devati Karma from Dantewada and Ramshila Shahu from Durg (rural) were elected for two terms. 

Steady Increase in Women Candidates

Chhattisgarh, since the Assembly elections of 2003, has seen a steady increase in the number of both women contestants as well as the number of elected women representatives. In the 2008 assembly elections, the proportion of women contestants was 8%, which subsequently increased to 9% in 2008. After a slight dip in 2013, it increased to 10% in 2018.

Source: Trivedi Centre for Political Data collated by Behanbox

Political parties in Chhattisgarh have increased the number of women fielded since the first elections in 2003. While BJP increased its tickets to women from 6 (15%)  in 2003 to 14 (34%) in 2018, INC increased from 8 (18%) to 13 (29%) in the same period. Most women contestants across all the elections, however, have been independents.

Source: Trivedi Centre for Political Data collated by Behanbox

Marginal Increase In ST Women Contesting and Winning

In a state where 30% of the population is Scheduled Tribes, the representation of ST women MLAs is a meagre 3% in the last assembly. Two ST women MLAs were elected in 2003, which rose to 3 in 2018. The highest number of ST women MLAs were in 2013 when five were elected to the House. Women contestants belonging to the ST community have only marginally risen from 28 in 2013 to 31 in 2018.

  • Ditsa Bhattacharya is a journalist and a postgraduate student at Jamia Millia Islamia. Her work revolves around gender, labour, health, education, and politics

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