Panel Discussion on "Have women arrived in Indian Politics?"

-by CSDS & KAS India

The centre for the Study of Developing Societies and the India Office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) organized a panel discussion on “Have women arrived in India politics” on Friday, June 10, 2022. The event aimed at discussing women’s changing participation in Indian politics, both as voters and as elected representatives.


Participating in the discussion were eminent politicians from six political parties of the country - Priyanka Chaturvedi, MP from the Shiv Sena; Sanjeev Jha, MLA from the Aam Aadmi Party; Alka Lamba of the Indian National Congress; Anila Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party; Ghanshyam Tiwari of Samajwadi Party and Nawal Kishore of the Rashtriya Janata Dal.

The panel discussion was moderated by Prof. Rajeshwari Deshpande, Professor at Department of Politics and Public Administration, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune

The discussion was divided into three segments and each segment focused on a pertinent question related to women’s participation in Indian politics and elections.

The first part of the panel discussion highlighted how the gender gap in voter participation in the country has been declining steadily over the last two decades. The panelists discussed the narrowing gap in turnout and what it means for Indian politics. Priyanka Chaturvedi was of the opinion that since women were emerging as a “huge vote bank”, it was incumbent upon every political party to step up and give them greater attention and representation.

The second part of discussion focused on women as candidates. While women voters’ turnout has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, women’s representation in law making bodies, both at the state level and in the Lok Sabha, still shows a poor record. The panelists shared their views on why political parties are reluctant to give tickets to women candidates.

Priyanka Chaturvedi while speaking on this issue said while there has not been a drastic increase in the number of women standing for elections, political parties have definitely taken cognizance of the increase in the number of women voters. She however added that only political parties should not be blamed for not giving enough tickets to women, society should share some blame for it too. She wondered if the Indian society, as it is today, is willing to accept women leaders, and said that the question was not just whether women have arrived in Indian politics but also of whether women have arrived in Indian society.

 RJD national spokesperson, Nawal Kishore said that his party has always focused on women, especially those from the poor and the marginalized communities.  He also added that his party has never been against reservation per se but that it has always wanted a quota within quota. Congress leader, Alka Lamba said that the party, in its recently held chintan shivir in Udaipur, decided to ensure 33% women participation in the organization – from the block level to the Congress Working Committee.

Anila Singh of the BJP said that women should be given seats that are winnable. She further added that at present she only sees a “mard sabha” or men’s parliament in both houses. She also vouched for a 48 per cent reservation instead of 33 per cent for women in the Parliament and state assemblies. Alka Lamba, on the panel, also agreed with Singh and hoped that the Narendra Modi government would use its remaining two years in office to effect this change.

For the last segment of the discussion, Prof. Sanjay Kumar of CSDS presented some CSDS survey data to show that women still do not vote en bloc and their vote is divided in most elections. Prof. Kumar also showed that women are no longer dependent voters and that the proportion of independent women voters has seen a constant rise over the years.

Reacting to this, Priyanka Chaturvedi said that while women have “arrived” in terms of how they exercise their franchise, they are not given enough tickets. She further stated that “There is no time for women to fight among each other and find faults in one another”. Women need to come together and further the gender cause.

SP’s Ghanshyam Tiwari stressed that the foundation of women’s participation has to be education, social empowerment and employment. AAP’s Sanjeev Jha was of the opinion that until the political parties do not fear a loss, women will never be able to receive representation. Shiv Sena MP, Priyanka Chaturvedi said that women are the “silent voters” and they now feel like equal stakeholders in the democratic process. 

Congress leader Alka Lamba said that women still have to cross many stages and there are many more challenges for them.  

The event was concluded by a book release titled “Women Voters in Indian Elections: Changing Trends and Emerging Patterns” edited by Prof. Sanjay Kumar and published by Routledge. 



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