Author: Ashley Crowson

Ashley Crowson
I graduated from Bournemouth University two years ago with an MA in International Journalism. I am now studying for a PhD at King's College London. My PhD is focussed on issues of development journalism, and journalism in and of the Global South.
12May

As polling ends, a profile of the men and women who fought for your votes

On the final day of polling in the world’s biggest election, voters in 41 constituencies across Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal will cast their votes, and, of course, post photos of inked fingers on social media. The 8,234 candidates who  submitted themselves to the electorate over the past month were obliged to declare their education, assets, and a range of other details. Based on that information, here is a quick profile of the candidates who fought for the 16th Lok Sabha seats.

Female candidates made up just 8% of the field. In the last Lok Sabha women occupied 11% of the seats. This means that in order to beat that figure, female candidates will need to be more electorally successful than their male counterparts this time around.

Most candidates were in their 40s, the average age being 47.

There were 52 candidates aged 25. The constitution states that anyone under the age of 25 may not sit in the Lok Sabha.

At 93 Ram Sundar Das is the oldest candidate — the only one in the 90s, in fact. He is running in Hajipur, Bihar for the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Rishang Keishing, who is 94, currently holds the record for India’s and the world’s oldest MP. However, he is not seeking reelection this time. If Sundar Das is elected and serves a full term he will become the world’s oldest MP.

Just under one-third of the candidates are graduates, and over 40% declared that they are educated to a high school level.

Five per cent of candidates have no formal education.

The average candidate has assets totalling Rs 49,309,000 (approximately £488,000).

The wealthiest candidate is technology entrepreneur Nandan Nilekani, who declared total assets of Rs 77,102,957,219 (approximately £763,473,000), including Rs 1,166,057,978 (£11,546,000) currently deposited in the bank.

The majority of the candidate, 82%, have never been involved in any criminal cases.

Two candidates from the Aam Aadmi Party in Tamil Nadu came top of the list in terms of involvement in criminal cases.

Udayakumar S P declared in his sworn affidavit that he has been involved in 382 cases, which include 19 charges of attempted murder and 16 charges “related to waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India”.

M Pushparayan, came a close second, declaring he has been involved in 380 criminal case.

Data compiled by the Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch, based on sworn affidavits from candidates.

7May

As elections near an end, a look at India’s other half

The horrific New Delhi gang rape of 2012 pushed women’s rights on to the electoral agenda in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections more than ever before. As India gradually begins to wind up its mammoth election exercise, here’s a historic look at the female vote, which is expected to play a significant role in determining the make-up of the new government.

According to the Election Commission of India, the gap between male and female voter turnout has been gradually decreasing since 1962. Female participation in state elections has risen since 2009. The gap could well be set to narrow even further this time around.

Although the official breakdown of voter numbers is yet to be released, the EC disclosed that in Chandigarh, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Sikkim and Lakshadweep there were more votes cast by women than by men.

Of the 20 states that have held elections since the last Lok Sabha polls, 16 recorded a higher voting percentage among women than men.

The EC is also hoping that a programme, which includes the deployment of election officials to voters’ homes to encourage women to vote, will help narrow the gap further, after a national survey found that women were often reluctant to visit a polling station unless accompanied by a man.

These official measures have been accompanied by social media campaigns, such as ‘Power of 49’, that have been active in encouraging women to vote.

The ‘Power of 49’ manifesto cites the underrepresentation of women in Parliament as one of the key concerns of their campaign.

Gender Balance in the Lok Sabha

Lok_Sabha_Gender

After the 2009 election, female members of the lower house rose above 10% for the first time.

In that election, women were actually more electorally successful than men. Women made up 7% of candidates fielded, with 11% of those candidates taking a seat in the Lok Sabha. This compares to a 6% success rate for male candidates.

In every general election since 1980 female hopefuls have recorded a higher success rate than their male counterparts.

Of the 7,562 candidates who submitted themselves to the electorate so far, just 592 (8%) are women. This 1% increase on last year’s figure suggests that change in this area will be gradual rather than sudden.

Even with the tendency for women candidates to be more successful than their male opponents, anything other than a modest rise in female representation looks unlikely.

Whatever the new Parliament looks like, India’s attitude towards women’s rights and violence against women is set to remain a contentious issue.

The conservative BJP, which is poised to do well in the current poll, point to increase in girls’ education and decreases in female infanticide in BJP-governed Madhya Pradesh as evidence of its commitment to women’s rights.

This commitment, however, has been called into question by critics of the BJP who accuse its leader, Narendra Modi, of paying lip service to the issue of women’s rights. Journalist Ankit Panda, who covers Indian politics for the Diplomat magazine, stated, “It seems to me that a majority of BJP members espouse views that are hostile to the liberal notion of gender equality.”

An open letter in The Guardian newspaper signed by Salman Rushdie, among others, has also drawn attention to the BJP’s record in this regard. Urging electors to “remember the role played by the Modi government in the horrifying events that took place in Gujarat in 2002,” the letter states “Women, in particular, were subjected to brutal acts of violence and were left largely unprotected by the security forces.”

23Apr

Tamil Nadu candidates come top… in a very different kind of poll

Tamil Nadu, the only state that has all its constituencies going to poll in Phase 6 of the Lok Sabha elections on April 24, has the dubious honour of having the top two candidates in terms of involvement in criminal cases.

Udayakumar S P of the Aam Aadmi Party declared in his sworn affidavit that he has been involved in 382 criminal cases. He has faced 19 charges of attempted murder and 16 charges “related to waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India”.

M Pushparayan, also of the AAP, comes a close second, declaring that he has been involved in 280 criminal case. On 19 occasions he has been charged with attempted murder. In addition, he has 13 charges “related to promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc”.


As well as finishing top of the criminal cases list, Udayakumar is part of the 2% of Tamil Nadu candidates who hold a doctorate, while Pushparayan has no formal qualifications.

Both candidates are prominent anti-nuclear campaigners. Many of their criminal cases relate to ‘disobedience’ and ‘being members of an unlawful assembly’.

The only other candidate to come close is West Bengal’s Sridip Bhattacharya, who has been involved in 58 criminal case.

There are 147 candidates who have been involved in five or more criminal cases. They come from a range of backgrounds. Here is how that number breaks down.



Data compiled by the Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch, based on sworn affidavits from candidates.

This story was also published on Rediff.com, our media partner

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