Women Win In Tougher Poll Fights In Rajasthan, Yet Don’t Get Enough Chances

In the last two decades of their rivalry in Rajasthan, only around 10% of the candidates picked by the BJP and Congress have been women

Rajasthan has seen a consistent increase in women contesting the state’s legislative assembly elections in the last six decades. A larger proportion of women are winning elections with higher vote shares than men, and from more competitive seats but they are getting fewer chances to contest, found Behanbox’s analysis of election data from Trivedi Centre for Political Data’s Lok Dhaba

The proportion of women candidates increased from 1.57% in 1962 to 7.53% in the last elections in 2018. The proportion of women MLAs in the state legislative assembly has increased from 4.5% to 11% in the same period. As Rajasthan goes to polls on November 25, we delve into electoral data since 1993 to understand the patterns of women’s political participation in the state.

Rajasthan has had 13 elections since 1962. Since 1993, no party has won consecutively, with the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) winning in every alternate election. In these two decades of rivalry between the two main parties, only around 10% of their candidates have been women.

In September 2023, the BJP government at the Centre, with unanimous support from all parties, passed the Women’s Reservation Bill which had been on the hold for 25 years. The law, which observers believe will only be implemented during the 2029 general elections, reserves 33% of all seats in the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies for women. Yet neither party improved on their ticket distribution to women candidates in these elections in the state. 

The BJP has given fewer tickets to women in the upcoming elections — 10% of its candidates are women this year, down from the 12% in the 2018 elections. Women contestants from the INC have remained somewhat the same– 13.1% in 2018 and 14.1% in 2023.

Higher Vote Shares

Despite limited representation within Rajasthan’s political parties, electoral data show that a high proportion of women contestants win from their constituencies with a higher vote share than men. Up to 15% of women MLAs won by more than 55% vote share compared to 12% men.

Zahida Khan with 58% and Mamta Bhupesh with 57%, both from the INC, won with the highest vote shares among women in 2018. Former chief minister Vasundhara Raje won with more than 55% vote share in three elections– 2003, 2008 and 2013 – while Kiran Maheshwari, Siddhi Kumari and Anita Bhadel won with similar vote shares in two elections (Kumari in 2008 and 2018, Bhadel in 2008 and 2013 and Maheshwari in 2013 and 2018).


Women candidates also fared better in seats with more competition. Almost all (96%) of the female winning candidates won from constituencies with more than 2 Effective Number of Parties (ENOP). (ENOP is a calculation which shows the numbers of  parties that are competing effectively in a given state/constituency based on their vote share.) This proportion was 91% among winning male candidates. One in 10 female legislators won in seats with 4-6 effective parties, higher than male candidates’ 8.9% .

In 2018, the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party’s Indira Devi won from the Merta constituency which had 4.35 effective parties with a margin of 7.13%. In 2013, BJP’s Sushil Kanwar won from Masuda constituency which had 7.14 effective parties with a margin of 2.6%.

Shortchanged Despite Higher Chances of Winning

Despite a higher proportion of women with higher vote shares and competitive edge, women continue to be given fewer chances. For instance, in the Ramgarh constituency, the INC gave the ticket to former MLA Zubair Khan even though the sitting MLA Shafia Zubair (who is also Khan’s wife) won the seat with a margin of 10,000 votes, Tabeenah Anjum wrote in The Indian Express. Khan had earlier lost elections on the same seat in 2008 and 2013. 

Like Shafia, many women politicians in Rajasthan are denied tickets despite winning previous elections. On average, a woman candidate who has won an election between 1993 and 2018, has contested 2.8 times, while the winning male candidate has contested 3.1 elections. Data also show that a higher proportion of male candidates who have won at least once (38%) have got more than four chances than female candidates (28%).



For women candidates who came second, another shot at contesting elections is almost always elusive. Almost half (42%) of the female candidates who came second in the last two decades did not contest again, compared to 34% male candidates.

  • Shreya Raman is an independent journalist based in Mumbai covering gender, health and public policy.

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