Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Millennials, sarpanches and foreign degree holders: Meet India's first-time women MPs

In the new Lok Sabha, debutante Members of Parliament represent a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and inheritances

Fazal Rahim
Published: Jun 11, 2024 02:21:00 PM IST
Updated: Jun 11, 2024 05:29:02 PM IST

Millennials, sarpanches and foreign degree holders: Meet India's first-time women MPsOne of the prominent names in the newcomers MPs include Bansuri Swaraj, daughter of late Union Minister Sushma Swaraj, a Waverick and Oxford University law graduate. She won a high-profile seat in the New Delhi constituency. Image: Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

In the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, India elected 74 women Members of Parliament (MPs). Although the total number of women elected to the Lok Sabha is four less than the 2019 elections, what sets this election apart is the number of first-time MPs: Of the 74 women MPs, 44 are debutantes. From sarpanches and councillors to Members of Legislative Assemblies and graduates from foreign universities, these women come from varied backgrounds.

Young Blood

Of the seven MPs under the age of 30, five are women. Sanjana Jatav (26) of the Congress won from Bharatpur, the hometown of Rajasthan’s Chief Minister Bhajan Lal Sharma, of BJP. Jatav, whose husband is a constable in the Rajasthan police, was defeated in the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly election last year by a mere 409 votes. This year, she won against BJP’s Ramswaroop Koli by 51,983 votes.

Sambhavi (25) is the daughter of Ashok Chaudhary, an MLA in Bihar and a close aide of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. However, Sambhavi did not contest the Lok Sabha election as a candidate of Kumar’s Janta Dal United (JDU); instead, she joined the Lok Jansakti Party and won by a margin of 1,87,251 votes against Congress’s Sunny Hazari, from Samastipur in Bihar.

Both Priya Saroj (25) and Priyanka Jarkiholi (27), come from political backgrounds. Saroj, who completed her master's degree from Amity University in 2022, is the daughter of former MP Toofani Saroj, who lost the Lok Sabha election in 2019. Saroj won against Bholanath from Machhlishahar, in the Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh, with a margin of 35,850 votes on a Samajwadi Party (SP) ticket. Jarkiholi, the daughter of Congress leader and former MLA Satish Jarkiholi, became the youngest tribal woman to win from an unreserved seat in Chikkodi, Karnataka. She won on a Congress ticket, and defeated the incumbent BJP MP Annasaheb Shanker Jolle with a margin of 90,834 votes.
Iqra Hasan Choudhary (27) returned from London in 2022, where she was pursuing her master’s degree in law and politics at the University of London, to take over the reins from her mother, SP’s Tabassum Hasan, a former MP, while her brother Nahid Hasan was in jail, after being booked under the Gangsters Act (he is now out on bail). She campaigned for her brother, who was contesting the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections while in prison, and won. Chaudhary emerged as a strong successor to her mother, and contested the Lok Sabha election on an SP ticket from Kairana in Uttar Pradesh, where she won by more than 69,000 votes against Pradeep Kumar of BJP.

From sarpanch to MP

First-time MPs can also climb the political ladder by winning local and state assembly elections before contesting for the Lok Sabha. However, a few women MPs have broken this norm in this general election by reaching the Parliament directly from the panchayat or district elections. Mitali Bag of Trinamool Congress, who won from Arambag in West Bengal, has two previous electoral wins to her name: She won the zila panchayat samiti election in 2018, and the district council member in 2023. Similarly, Bharti Pardhi of BJP, who was a sarpanch from Lalbarra in Madhya Pradesh, was a member of the Balaghat municipality. In her third election, she became the MP from Balaghat constituency.

BJP’s Lata Wankhede, who won from the Sagar constituency in Madhya Pradesh, has been a three-time sarpanch. Anita Narsingh Chauhan, the BJP MP from Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh, had held office as the head of the district council.

MLAs who are now MPs

Ten of the 44 debutante women MPs have earlier served in various state assemblies. Bachhav Shobha Dinesh joined the Congress in 1992. She became mayor of the Nashik Municipal Corporation and was an MLA in Maharashtra. She won the Lok Sabha election from Dhule. Gaikwad Varsha Eknath of Congress won the Lok Sabha seat of Mumbai North-Central. She has been a four-time MLA in Maharashtra, where she has also served as Minister of Women and Child Development.

Similarly, Joba Majhi of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, who won from Singhbum in Jharkhand, has been a five-time MLA and has been Minister of Social Welfare, Women and Child Development, and Tourism. Aruna DK of the BJP, elected to the Lok Sabha from Mahabubnagar, had been an MLA in Andhra Pradesh from 2004 to 2014.

Other prominent names among newcomers include Bansuri Swaraj of BJP, daughter of late Union Minister Sushma Swaraj; she studied at University of Warwick and University of Oxford. She won a high-profile seat in the New Delhi constituency against Somnath Bharti of the Aam Aadmi Party.

Millennials, sarpanches and foreign degree holders: Meet India's first-time women MPs