The participation of women in politics and their status in Sikkim

Tue, Aug 28, 2018

Part –II


The ruling government in Sikkim has already provided 33% reservation to the women in the Panchayati raj institution in order to provide them empowerment even before passing the bill by the parliament and set the example in the mission of women empowerment and providing equal justice and reservation to the women in the state. However, the definition and meaning of the reservation is really a subject of great discussion in the modern world of high competition, where the people need to go beyond reservation and build up competitive attitude. All the reservation of women, scheduled caste and tribes are not permanent provision and solution in the constitution, it is a temporary arrangement or provision in order to give all the citizen of India an equal opportunity in the developmental process. The reservation means to provide the opportunity to those who are deprived because of the economic and social condition. However, in course of time, the politicians have made it the political ploy to sustain in the politics in the country. Within the last two decades, many women appeared and participated in the political front of Sikkim, however, the quality leadership of women is indeed the necessity of the modern time.
While examining the trend of the women participating in Sikkim politics, it is observed that there is an increasing tendency of the women who directly or indirectly, consciously or by motivation are taking part in the process. Soon after the inclusion of Sikkim in India in 1975, the state government headed by the former Chief Minister, late Kazi Lhendup Dorjee was formed in which Mrs. Hemlatta Khatiwada was the member of Sikkim Legislative Assembly as the first woman legislature during 1975 to 1979. In 1979, there was the general election, in which ten women contested the election. At that time, only three women candidates were nominated as the contesting candidates from the regional political parties and rest were independent candidates. This is the first time in the history of democratic system of the state that the names of these ten women candidates can be counted as the inspiration to other promising and prospective women candidates of the state, they are Ruth Karthak Lepcheni, Manita Pradhan, Fulmaya Limbuni, Durga Lama Pradhan, Shova Kanti Lepcha, Dambar Kumari Pradhan, Phutik Bhutia, Diki Choden Bhutia and Mrs. Santosh Nirash (Sr. journalist, as an independent candidate with the symbol of pot). Mrs. Ruth Karthak contested from two constituencies; hence there was the presence of women candidate in 11 constituencies in 1979 poll. No single women candidate emerged victorious in the poll, however, it was a great beginning and encouragement to the women for showing the way to them for the participation in the politics of Sikkim. In another term, it was the time of an orthodox society, where womenfolk were considered not suitable for fighting the election, however, they challenged and broke the aged old belief and system. In the election, the highest number of votes scored by any  women candidate were Manita Pradhan who obtained 419 votes and the lowest votes secured by a women was Mrs. Santosh Nirash who could score 14 votes, but considering the total votes of slightly the strength of around 2-3 thousand, their scoring of votes were remarkable and a sign of women participation in the politics of Sikkim for the first time. The interesting feature of the election was that out of total votes of  1,17,157 ( one lakh seventeen thousand, one hundred fifty-seven), the percentage of women voters was one percent more than male voters despite the total male voters were greater in number than the women voters by more than 14 thousand votes. The total male voters were 65,913 whereas the female voters were 51,244 in total. Despite that, the participation of women voters in the poll was 1 percent more in the poll of 1979.
In 1985 election, a total of 11 women candidate participated in the poll contesting from different constituencies. The women candidates contested in 1985 election were Manita Pradhan, Durga Lama Pradhan, Diki Lhamu, Kamala Subba, Laden Bhutia, Ruth Karthak Lepchini, Dil Kumari Bhandari, Kalawati Subb, Dhanmaya Chhetri and Damber Kumari Pradhan. Again no single women won the seat, but in comparison, they improved their score of votes by more than double the score they could obtain in the last poll. Mrs. D.K. Bhandari scored 1749 voters, while Manita Pradhan scored 1216 votes and they were defeated by the difference of 1 thousand to 2 thousand votes only in between. This time too, two women scored only 2 and 4 votes, the lowest ones; however, they showed their presence in the politics along with their male counterpart, a sign of changing political belief and behaviors in the old traditional system of the society, where the male rulers mostly dominated the politics during monarchial rule of 302 years.
Despite the defeat in the assembly, Mrs. D.K.Bhandari won the Lok Sabha election and with her entry as an active woman politician, she showed a new ray of hope in the mind of women politicians in the state. Later on, she was able to concede the demand of Nepali language in the 8th schedule of Indian constitution. In the process of the movement, she staged a dharna in front of the running session of the parliament demanding the tabling of the bill on Nepali language recognition along with Manipuri and Konkoni as they promised. The bill was placed in the parliament by dint of great perseverance and political obligation with the active support of the then Chief Minister of Sikkim, late N.B. Bhandari  and it was passed on August 20, 1992 by both houses of parliament, which was the historic moment among the Indian Nepali people.
In 1989 poll, the total number of the voters reached 1,92,619 in which the women voters were 62,353, a little less number of 14 thousand than male voters, but the women participation in contesting the poll drastically came down, it decreased to 4 candidates as compared to 11 female candidates contested in the last election, however, there was only a good thing happened for women that a women Tshong Lhamu Bhutia contested as the candidate from Sikkim Sangram Parishad was successful to capture the seat she contested.
 In the year 1994, the total voters of Sikkim crossed the line of two lakhs and reached the numbers of 2 lakhs 17 thousand 7 hundred and 43  in which the total female votes were 1 lakh 3 thousand 4 hundred and 28 whereas the male votes were 1 lakh 14 thousand 3 hundred and 15 altogether. The number of women candidates contesting election increased in that election as compared to the previous election and reached 9 in total and a women Rinzing Ongmu from Sikkim Sangram Parishad won the election. In 1999 election, the numbers of total women voters were 1,22,786 whereas the male voters were 1,32,259 out of 2,55,3,77 total votes. It shows that there is no massive declination of women voters in the state but it was at an optimum level, although the female ratio is slightly lower than the male ratio out of the total voters. In total, there were 81 percent votes in which the participation of female votes was encouraging. In that election, Mrs. Kalawati Subba from Sikkim Democratic Front was elected and in the next election of 2009, she became the first women speaker of Sikkim Legislative Assembly. In 2004 election the total women voters were 1 lakh 36 thousand 1 hundred and 99 only and the male voters were 1 lakh 45 thousand 7 hundred and 38 and thus the female voters were lesser by 9 thousand 5 hundred 39 votes only in total. In 2006, it was important for the women candidate that out of 6 candidates, 3 of them won the election. The women candidates who won the election were Ms. Kalawati Subba, Manita Mangar, and Nimthith Lepcha.

( To be concluded)

Area: 7096 Sq Km
Altitude: 5,840 ft
Population: 6.10 Lakhs
Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 ft. to over 28,509 ft above sea level
Summer: Max- 21°C ; Min – 13°C
Winter: Max -13°C ; Min – 0.48°C
Rainfall: 325 cm per annum
Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi