There has been a dearth of female leadership in Haryana ever since the state was formed in 1966. One can count the female politicians from the state on fingers. To name a few, Kartar Devi, and Shakuntala Bhagwari, have been ministers in the state. Parasani Devi and Behen Chanderavati, were Jat politicians who were much senior than Bansi Lal, Bhajan Lal and Bhupinder Singh Hooda, but never got a chance to head the state government. Late Om Prabha Jain of Kaithal, Smt. Sharda Rani of Ballabgarh were ministers in Bansi Lal's cabinet.
The most prominent woman politician from the haryana is Sushma Swaraj, who became the youngest ever Cabinet minister in the country at 25, in 1977 and after 2 years became the State President of the Janata Party, Haryana state the only woman to head a political outfit in the state to date. Another woman politician of prominence is Kumari Selja. Is it a coincidence that both belong to political families and both hail from Ambala that borders Punjab?
All these women leaders had good education and decent personal records but barring Sushma who dazzled in the political scene more as a Delhi-based politician than a Haryana woman, none could achieve much by staying in the state. Yet these women did challenge the patriarchal setup where the male dominated panchayats have an overriding authority on women. These panchayats often come up with bizarre ideas such as lowering the marriageable age of girls, banning them from carrying mobile phones and wearing jeans and no politician can dare their diktat.
As a result, women in the state have been so marginalised and discriminated against that most remain economically fragile, educationally backward, publicly down and politically disabled. This fact is also endorsed by the 2011 Census that shows that Haryana has the lowest sex ratio with a rural female literacy rate of just 60.02 per cent. The National Crime Records Bureau says that in 2011 Haryana had a conviction rate of only 23.4 per cent in rape cases; molestation, domestic violence, and other woman-related crimes increased.
Another reason for lesser women participation in Haryana politics is the dominance of only a handful of political families in the state. Families of Bhajan Lal and Bansi Lal ruled the state for about a quarter of century a long period considering Haryana was formed just about 48 years ago! Then there are Chautala and Hooda families that have a powerful influence over the politics of the state.
Can this explain the poor representation of women in the last general elections too by the political parties? Om Prakash Chautala's Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), Congress (with Bhupinder Singh Hooda at the helm as CM) as well as Aam Admi Party (AAP) fielded just one woman each in the elections. The BJP and Haryana Janhit Congress (BJP-HJC) coalition, BSP as well as the Left (CPM and CPI) didn't even field a woman in the fray.
It is obvious that older women in Haryana still prefer to follow their men on political issues. Yet there are many young generation women who do aspire to join politics. It is time that the political parties also realise the need to create vacancy for women in their parties.