India's 16th General Election has been the most expensive exercise of its kind in the country's history. One estimate puts the figure at Rs 30,000 crore, a tad shy of the bill notched up in the 2012 US presidential polls. What does this tsunami of money power that brought Narendra Damodardas Modi to power mean for the faceless, voiceless Indian? The answer will unfold over the next five years, but what is clear is that for India's women, the more things change the more they remain the same.
It is true, of course, that this election has seen the highest ever number of women becoming parliamentarians. But it is equally true this increase is statistically insignificant - while 2009 general elections saw 59 women enter the Lok Sabha, this time the number stands at 62. It is a fact, also, that the number of women who got tickets this time increased, but here again it was a marginal rise. In 2009, there were 556 female contestants out of a total of 8,070; this time there were 668 women out of a total of 8,251 candidates. Most of these women were chosen for two reasons. Their ability to draw crowds was one. BJP's Hema Malini in Mathura, a constituency she had never been associated with earlier, and the Trinamool Congress's Moon Moon Sen, who won from Bankura, are examples of those who romped home on glamour power. The second consideration was family connections. Would Dimple Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and Poonam Mahajan of the BJP have been MPs if they were not the wife and daughter, respectively, of prominent politicians? Undeniably, many male candidates made it through film or family connections as well but a disproportionately larger number of women did so.