Despite New Statehood, Female Representation In Telangana Lags Behind

In the south, Telangana has one of the lowest shares of female MLAs, doing worse than its sibling state Andhra Pradesh

On Thursday, Telangana will vote to elect its third government since it achieved statehood in 2014. Women, who played an important role in the Telangana movement for a separate statehood, have been sidelined in the political process since its formation, shows our analysis of election data.

In the first legislative assembly in 2014, only 7.6% MLAs were women, which slipped further to 5% in 2018. In undivided Andhra Pradesh (AP), 12% of MLAs were women. While their electoral political space has shrunk in both the Telugu states, AP and Telangana, the fall has been sharper in the latter. 

“Women have barely figured in the political and development imagination of the KCR government even though they played such a huge role in the formation of the state,” Usha Seethlakshmi, a Hyderabad based independent researcher and member of MAKAAM, a national campaign platform for the rights and entitlements of women farmers, told Behanbox.

 There were no women ministers in the first elected government of the Telangana state headed by K Chandrashekar Rao, popularly known as KCR, of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (now renamed Bharat Rashtra Samiti). In his second term in government starting 2019, two women were inducted as ministers only in later cabinet expansions

Among south Indian states, Telangana has one of the lowest shares of female MLAs, worse only after Karnataka where 3.1% MLAs are women and somewhat similar to Tamil Nadu (5.1%).

Undivided Andhra Did Better

Women candidates fared better in the 119 constituencies of the current Telangana state in the erstwhile undivided Andhra Pradesh, Behanbox found after 1962. For instance, these constituencies elected 16 women MLAs, constituting 13.5% of 119 constituencies.

While the proportion of female winners has been decreasing, the proportion of female candidates in these constituencies has been steadily increasing – from 4.6% in 1962 to 9.7% in 2023. (In 2008, assembly constituencies in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh were delimited and hence fewer number of constituencies have been included in data prior to 2009.)

This low representation in the legislature stems from limited ticket distribution to female candidates by major parties. The BRS, which has won the highest number of seats in 2014 and 2018 elections, has a history of giving fewer tickets to women – only 23 in the 23 years since its formation in 2001. In the first election it contested the party fielded only one woman candidate and none in 2009. In 2004, its lone woman candidate, Andari Shara Rani, won with a massive 63% vote share but never contested again.

Since the formation of the new state, the number tickets being given to women decreased in the first two elections–from 10 in 2014 to 4 in 2018. In the upcoming elections, 8 BRS candidates are female.

Multiple women politicians have quit the party to join or rejoin national parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or the Indian National Congress (INC). In 2018, four-time MLA Konda Surekha left the party and rejoined INC because she was not given a ticket in the elections. Similarly, Bodiga Shobha also quit and joined BJP because she was not selected in 2018.

In 2023, two-time MLA Rekha left BRS and joined INC for not being fielded by the party. The BRS changed its candidates only in seven constituencies, and two of them had female MLAs.

Among major parties in contention for the upcoming election, BJP (13) and INC (12) have selected more female candidates than the BRS. Between 2014 and 2018, BJP’s share of female candidates decreased by 3 and INC’s has increased by 1. 

Of the nine female candidates from INC that had won in 2009 elections, four contested in both 2014 and 2018 elections while two only contested 2014 elections and the rest did not contest again. 

The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has not fielded any women candidates since 2009.

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