Bengaluru: The 90-member Haryana legislative assembly will have nine women--four fewer than the 13 women legislators in the previous term--making this the lowest number in 10 years. The state saw 104 women candidates contesting from 56 constituencies.

The previous low was in the year 2000 when four women were voted to the assembly in a state which until recently had India’s worst sex ratio at birth, and the fourth highest rate of crime against women nationwide in 2017.

The Manohar Lal Khattar-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won (or was leading in) 40 seats as it attempted to win a second successive term in Haryana (as of 6.25 pm). This is seven seats fewer than the 47 it won in 2014. The Congress has won/was leading in 31 seats.

The BJP now governs 15 of the 29 states in India, including Maharashtra where the party has won/was leading in 103 seats while its ally, the Shiv Sena, has won/was leading in 57 seats in the 288-member assembly.

The trends in Haryana indicate a hung assembly, which would mean that the independents and the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP)--a splinter group of the Indian National Lok Dal, led by Dushyant Chautala--would play a decisive role in forming the next government. Khattar is reportedly set to stake claim to form the government.

In the 2019 general elections, the BJP had won all 10 parliamentary seats in the state. Only one of the members of parliament elected, Sunita Duggal, was a woman.

BJP had 12 women candidates, Congress 10

The BJP gave tickets to 12 women this year, compared to 10 women candidates from the Congress.

Three women candidates from the BJP won their races--five fewer than the party’s eight women legislators in 2014; five women candidates from the Congress had won.

This time, the JJP fielded seven women candidates. One of them, Naina Singh Chautala, Dushyant Chautala’s mother, has won.

In 2014, women formed 14% of Haryana’s members of legislative assembly (MLAs), four percentage points more than in 2009. But this is less than the 33% representation for women in parliament and state assemblies sought in a bill (the One Hundred and Eighth Amendment or the women’s reservation bill) introduced in 2009, which has since lapsed.

In 2014, Haryana had, as we said, 13 women MLAs--the highest in the two decades since 2000. Of the 13, four were re-elected in 2014 and have contested for a third term in 2019. Of these, three have won.

Women’s Representation In Haryana Assembly Lowest Since 2004
Year Women candidates Total candidates Women elected (out of 90 seats) Women MLAs (As % of total MLAs)
2000 49 965 4 4.44%
2005 60 983 11 12.22%
2009 69 1222 9 10.00%
2014 116 1351 13 14.44%
2019 104 1169 9 10%
Source: PRS Legislative And Election Commission Of India

Overall, eight of the sitting women MLAs have re-contested in 2019. Two of them, Shakuntla Khatak and Geeta Bhukkal, contested from Kalanaur and Jhajjar, respectively, both constituencies reserved for scheduled castes (SC) candidates.

The BJP’s Kavita Jain, contesting for a third successive term from Sonipat, was trailing by nearly 33,000 votes.

“It is difficult to make an assessment of women politics depending on how many women win,” Rahul Verma, fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, told IndiaSpend. Despite having low social development indicators, Haryana has one of the largest representations of women, he added, “But many of the candidates and previous winners are either from political families or celebrities.”

Gilles Verniers, co-director of the Trivedi Centre for Political Data and head of the political science department at Ashoka University, agreed with Verma. “Until this result, Haryana had the highest representation of women in assemblies,” he told IndiaSpend. “This often comes as a surprise given the state's reputation on women's welfare, but we observe that in India, states with the worst women welfare-related statistics like skewed sex ratio, illiteracy, infant mortality etc. tend to have more women politicans than those with better indicators.”

“One explanation is the prevalence of dynastic politics in those states, which creates opportunities to women to run,” Verniers said, “The traditional, conservative, North Indian political tradition tends to have a prevalent culture of political dynasticism than other parts of India.”

Haryana has fourth-highest rate of crime against women

Over five years to 2017, female representation in state assemblies was the highest in Haryana (14%) along with Bihar and Rajasthan, according to the 2017 data released by the ministry of statistics and programme implementation.

Haryana has had one of the lowest sex ratios in the country--it had 833 girls for 1,000 boys at birth in 2011. But for close to a decade now, the state has shown a steady improvement in its sex ratio at birth, and reported 920 girls for 1,000 boys in August 2019, IndiaSpend reported on October 20, 2019.

A skewed sex ratio has led to villages with few female children, brides being bought for money as there are too few local women for men to marry, and forced marriages with women outside the state, The Guardian reported in March 2018.

The state had India’s fourth-highest rate of crime against women--88.7 crimes per 100,000 women, according to 2017 crime data. Female literacy, at 75.4%, is above the national average of 68.4%, and nearly 46% of girls in the state have completed more than 10 years of schooling, also above the national average of 35.7%, IndiaSpend reported on August 12, 2017, as a part of our Women@Work series.

The state is among the wealthiest in the country with a per capita income (at current prices) of Rs 2.3 lakh per annum, nearly 77% more than the all-India per capita income of Rs 1.3 lakh, noted the 2018-19 Economic Survey of Haryana.

The labour force participation rate among those aged 15 years and above (LFPR or percentage of persons in the labour force in a population) in Haryana is 45.5% for rural and urban areas, 4.3 percentage points less than the national average, according to 2017-18 Periodic Labour Force Survey released by the government in May 2019. India’s unemployment was pegged at a 45-year high at 6.1% based on the report.

Women’s LFPR was even lower--14.7% in rural areas (nearly 10 percentage points lower than the national rural LFPR for women) while in urban areas it was 13.7% (6.7 percentage less than national urban female LFPR).

“Unemployment may or may not be a voting issue,” said Verniers. “Women do outvote men in Haryana as they do in many states in the Hindi belt. But lack of access to employment means household confinement, which is a strong barrier to women's participation in the public sphere.”

“The trouble is that the bar is so high that a man of ordinary capability and more than ordinary ambition can enter politics, but women have to cross many thresholds to be able to enter politics,” Yogendra Yadav, psephologist and president of Swaraj India party, had told IndiaSpend in an interview. His party had fielded 27 candidates, including five women candidates, all of whom have lost.

“If you filter the women in the Haryana assembly for those from political families, you would realise that their number [women’s representation] is close to zero,” Yadav said.

There are a number of barriers for women because parties still think they make weaker candidates, or that they cannot perform the tasks expected from an elected representative, according to Verniers. “In some states, like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, voters turn against women candidates, giving them less votes than their male counterparts. There is an issue of self-selection where elections are seen as masculine and brutish, which may discourage women to run. And then there is the cost of entry of elections which affects women adversely.”

At the time of publishing, repolling had been ordered in five booths in as many constituencies--Natnaul, Kosli, Beri, and Uchana Kalan, Prithla--due to ”some shortcomings” according to Inder Jeet, the state's joint chief electoral officer, NDTV reported.

(Paliath is an analyst with IndiaSpend.)

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