New Delhi: During the seven decades since the first General Election in 1951, Delhi has only elected seven women to the Lok Sabha compared to almost 60 men. More than half the Lok Sabha houses since independence have seen no woman representation from the national capital.
Delhi did elect its first woman MP right in the first parliamentary election. The winner was Sucheta Kripalani, a freedom fighter and an associate of Mahatma Gandhi.
Kripalani contested from New Delhi on a ticket of the Kisan Majdoor Praja Party, founded by her husband Acharya Kripalani. She defeated Congress’ Manmohini Sehgal, a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family. In 1957, Kriplani switched to the Congress and was re-elected.
After a long gap, she was followed by Subhadra Joshi of the Congress. Joshi, who was also the first woman MP from Punjab, was elected from Chandni Chowk, defeating Bharatiya Jan Sangh’s Ram Gopal Shalwale by over 45,000 votes in 1972. During the Emergency of 1975-77, she opposed every move by Sanjay Gandhi, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s son, to demolish structures in her constituency to “beautify” the city.
She had earlier defeated Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1962 in Balrampur in UP. After Joshi, Delhi elected Sushma Swaraj (South Delhi) and Meira Kumar (Karol Bagh), both in 1996 and 1998. Sushma Swaraj (BJP) defeated Congress’ Kapil Sibal by 1.14 lakh votes and later Ajay Maken, also of Congress, by 1.16 lakh votes.
Meira Kumar (Congress), who created history in 2009 when she was elected the first woman Speaker, defeated BJP’s Kalka Das in 1996 by over 41,000 votes. She defeated BJP’s Surender Pal Rathawal in 1998 but her victory margin shrunk to 4,826 votes.
In 1999, Anita Arya (BJP) was elected from Karol Bagh, the only reserved constituency in Delhi, defeating Meira Kumar. In 2004 and 2009, Krishna Tirath of Congress was the lone woman candidate to won from Delhi. In 2004, she defeated Anita Arya in Karol Bagh and BJP’s Meera Kanwaria in 2009 from North West Delhi.
In 2014, amid a ‘Modi wave’, Meenakshi Lekhi won from the prestigious New Delhi seat and became Delhi’s seventh woman MP. She defeated Aam Aadmi Party’s Ashish Khetan by 1.6 lakh votes. Some of the Delhi women MPs held key posts in different govts. Kripalani later became India’s first woman CM.