Political participation of Indian women, though on a small scale, started with the freedom movement. Mahatma Gandhi was mostly instrumental for arousing political consciousness in the educated women of the upper classes as well as the illiterate women of the lower classes and making them take part in the freedom movement.
Political participation may be defined as voluntary participation in political affairs through membership, voting and partaking in the activities of the political parties, legislative bodies and/or politically motivated movements. The Constitution of India guarantees adult franchise and provides the framework for women to participate actively in politics. Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. It is a pity that women have not substantially availed of the constitutional provisions. The consecutive election statistics show that the number of women who exercise their franchise has increased from election to election. For the last two decades almost equal numbers of men and women have gone to the polling booths to vote.
While women do seem to be exercising their voting powers vigorously; the number of women filing their nomination papers in any election, national or State, is still only a fraction of the corresponding number of men. Some withdraw at the last moment leading to just a half-handful contesting candidates. Ultimately the number of women winning elections will be so small that their percentage in the legislative body will be nominal.
The percentage of winning candidates has been below ten in Parliament, in all the past elections. The State Assemblies too present a similar situation. No variation whatsoever has occurred in half-a-century. In the same period, Indian women have achieved commendable progress in fields of literacy, education, and employment. They have achieved rights equal to that of men for parental assets. They have