NEW DELHI, INDIA – JUNE 20: Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, BJP MP Hema Malini and BJP MP Kirron Kher seen after President Ram Nath Kovind addressed a joint session of Parliament, on June 20, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

In the short period that this Lok Sabha has been in session, women MPs have grabbed the headlines. This is indeed a heartening change from the past.

The scene-stealers so far have been TMC’s Mahua Moitra with her now-viral firebrand speech, and her colleagues in the party Nusrat Jahan and Mimi Chakraborty.

Puja Mehra@pujamehra

Stunningly clear-eyed articulation of the spirit of dissent. Speech of the year by TMC MP Mahua Moitra: https://youtu.be/dnh-mpg_oF4 

The last two have been criticised by trolls for the ‘glamour quotient’ they have brought to the proceedings. But the two couldn’t care less and have chosen to stick to their beliefs and go about their job.

Nusrat Jahan was taken to task by some Mulsim clerics for sporting a sindhoor. But Nusrat, who has a mind of her own, stood her ground.

Nusrat

@nusratchirps

Paying heed or reacting to comments made by hardliners of any religion only breeds hatred and violence, and history bears testimony to that..

But it’s not just the TMC MPs who have shown admirable courage in sticking to their convictions, women MPs from other parties have been equally impressive.

Though lacking in glamour, the Odisha women MP contingent are silently catching the eye of all with their simplicity.

In fact, the Odisha team stands out for being an eclectic mix. Out of the total 21 MPs from Odisha, seven are women- 5 from the BJD and two from the BJP. And these include a former IAS officer, a doctor, an engineer, a grassroots-level leader, a member of the erstwhile royal family, and a homemaker.

anil sharma@anilsharma07

BJD Women MP s from Odisha at Parliament House on Thursday. @IndianExpress photo by @anilsharma07

The BJD’s 5 women MPs amount to 42% of its total 12 MPs- the highest-ever ratio of any party. The TMC’s record of 9 women MPs out of its 22 is also impressive. The BJP, for the record, has 40 women MPs in this Lok Sabha.

Interestingly, with a total of 78 women MPs, this Lok Sabha has the highest number of women MPs ever. Chandrani Murmu, a tribal woman, who won from Keonjhar in Odisha, is the youngest MP at the age of 25 years and 11 months.

In 2014, 11.23 percent of women who contested won, but in 2019 the number has gone up to 14.58 percent. Of the 8,251 contestants in 2014, 668 were women (and 62 won), whereas the 2019 elections saw 8,049 candidates, of which 724 were women.

Time For #33Percent@Time33Percent

“India has seen an increase in female representation in the national legislature. However, this increase has been slow and has plateaued over the last few years. Odisha and West Bengal sent 33% female MPs in 2019, increasing national participation of women to 14% this year.”

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“These are just baby steps though,” cautions Jailaxmi Arora, a women’s activist. “The numbers need to be further up. And also it needs to be seen what kind of space the women MPs get to establish their ability. But we are happy that the TMC MPs are making a mark. But the long road still remains to be travelled.”

With so many impressive women MPs, there is a glimmer of hope on the 33% women’s reservation bill that has been hanging for too long.