Against the tide: The women who fought and won in the 18th Lok Sabha against the ruling regime

From retention of seats by Mahua Moitra, Supriya Sule to the emergence of younger women, such as Iqra Hasan and Saroj, the 18th Lok Sabha saw many women succeeding

On June 4, 2024, the result of the 18th Lok Sabha elections were declared. These general elections painted a happy picture for the opposition, who chose to fight together as the INDIA alliance led by the Indian National Congress (INC), as, together, they were able to win a total of 232 seats. A major success from this brave fight put up by the opposition was seen through the victory of women candidates, many of whom belonged to the marginalised and minority communities.

This time, a total of 797 women candidates had contested the Lok Sabha elections and over 30 have won from their seats. While the number of women who won from their respective constituencies is considerably lower than the 2019 Lok Sabha polls when 78 women candidates had won, many of these women, especially those who fought from within the ranks of the political opposition, have had to put up a great fight in the face of adversity to emerge victorious in this election. The listicle below provides a little insight into the fight put up by some of these women:

  1. Mahua Moitra: Mahua Moitra, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) candidate from West Bengal’s Krishnanagar seat, made a triumphant political comeback after winning from constituency seat by 56,705 votes. Mahua’s sharply political speeches in Parliament –her maiden speech on June 26, 2010 on “signs of fascism” brought her accolades on social media have earned her a nationwide following. Her landslide victory against her Bharatiya Janata Party rival, Amrita Roy, speaks volumes of her resilience as well as the trust of the people that she enjoys. One should not forget how important this win for Moitra was as she had been expelled from her Lok Sabha seat in 2023 over a controversial cash-for-query case. Throughout this entire whole period, Moitra had denied the allegations that had been levied against her. Rather, she had accused the ruling BJP party of attempting to silence her voice as she had raised many questions on the nexus between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and industrialist Gautam Adani. Now, with a resounding mandate of the people behind her, Moitra will once again be able to sit in the Parliament, this time –in all probability –facing an un-fanged National Democratic Alliance (NDA). As Moitra herself said while accepting her victory- this win is not just a personal triumph for her, but a fitting response to those who sought to suppress her voice.

  1. Varsha Eknath Gaikwad: Dalit feminist leader Varsha Eknath Gaikwad, who was fielded by the INC, won from Maharashtra’s Mumbai North Central constituency after putting a tough fight against BJP’s Ujwal Nikam. Varsha, whom people lovingly refer to as Varsha Tai, won by a margin of 16,514 votes. Till the end of the counting, the fight between Varsha and Nikam had kept everyone on their toes, with Nikam leading in few rounds, but it was Varsha with whom the mandate of the people rested. It is essential to note that Varsha, who was backed by Shiv Sena (UBT), is the sole Congress candidate from the entire Mumbai Metropolitan Region (Bhushan Patil lost to erstwhile union minister Piyush Goyal from Mumbai North) . Many political observers called Varsha’s win to be “against all odds”, as an AIMIM candidate had also been fielded from her seat, though it also failed to make a significant dent in her votes. Varsha, who is the daughter of Congress veteran Eknath Gaikwad, has a lot of hopes piled on her back as she comes with a background of serving as a social workers and had even served as Maharashtra’s education minister from 2009-2010. Her principled stand with the people of Dharavi in neighbouring Mumbai South Central constituency has also won her lasting support.

  1. Kanimozhi Karunanidhi: Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)’s Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, who was contesting from Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi constituency, was able to retain her seat by constituency by bagging 5,40,729 votes. Her victory against opponents S.D.R Vijayaseelan of NDA and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (AIADMK) Sivasami Velumani, had fortified the DMK’s stronghold under CM Stalin’s leadership. Notably, Kanimozhi is the daughter of former chief minister, the late M Karunanidhi. Kanimozhi had campaigned rigorously during the now concluded elections, appealing to the people to prevent a “dictatorial” government from coming to power in Tamil Nadu, a state that had repeatedly rejected the saffron party from making any inroads.

  1. Iqra Munawar Hasan: The state of Uttar Pradesh was the game changer in the Lok Sabha elections, and Iqra Hasan is the new star that as emerged in the Western Uttar Pradesh. Iqra Hasan, a London-educated postgraduate in International law from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studied, who was fielded by the Samajwadi Party from Kairana constituency, won with a margin of 69,116 votes against BJP’s Pradeep Kumar and Bahujan Samaj Party’s Sripal. Iqra is the daughter of two-time MP and two-time MLA late Munawwar Hasan. One must also note that Iqra, who is 28 years old, is a feminist, who fought this election to uphold her family’s “legacy of service”. 

Coming from a family who have been deeply invested and involved in politics of the state, Iqra had sought to change the politics back to issues of the people, especially those affecting women, and bridge the gap that has been formed between people due to the communal politics of BJP. In a report of the Indian Express, voters had described Iqra as yuva, shikshit, bebaak aur bedaag (young, educated, fearless and spotless). In an interview with the Hindu, Iqra had told that the issues she would majorly want to for work in UP revolve around farmers and women’s education.

  1. Geniben Nagaji Thakor: A notable win for the Congress, and the INDIA alliance, was the win that INC candidate Geniben Nagaji Thakor clinched the Banaskantha Lok Sabha seat, defeating BJP’s Rekha Chaudhary by a margin of 30,000 votes. Even though only one seat was bagged by the Congress in Gujarat, Thakor’s victory was crucial as it shattered the BJP’s ambition to sweep all 26 seats in Gujarat for the third straight term. One should also note that Banaskantha has traditionally been a BJP stronghold. In a state where the BJP candidate in Surat had won uncontested, for an INC candidate to win after a decade meant a dent in the state where no opposition had a fair chance. It is essential to note that Thakor was one of the 16 MLAs suspended by the Gujarat Assembly last year for protesting against the suspension of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi as an MP. Pursuant to this, in February 2024, Thakor and 10 other Congress MLAs were suspended again for speaking about fake government offices in the state. As her victory went viral, reports had emerged how in 2024, Thakor had, despite facing financial constraints, decided to contest the general elections. Her campaign for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls was crowdfunded after Congress said it wasn’t in a position to financially back its nominees.

  1. Supriya Sule: Supriya Sule of the Nationalist Congress Party (SP), daughter of Sharad Pawar, had to overcome many challenges, from having her party name and symbol being snatched away to compete against estranged family members in the now concluded Lok Sabha elections. But in the end, she was able to retain her Baramati Lok Sabha seat by more than 1.55 lakh votes. Sule received 7,32,312 votes, while Sunetra Pawar managed to bag 5,73,979 votes, as per the data of the Election Commission of India.

This battle of high stakes was fought and won by Sule against her sister-in-law Sunetra Pawar, wife of Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and a political debutante. Odds seemed to be against Sule as Ajit Pawar, Sule’s cousin who rebelled against her father Sharad Pawar last year and split the party, has been known to enjoy a lot of support in the family bastion of Baramati. And yet, Sule was able to win her seat for the fourth consecutive time. Sule is known for her exemplary parliamentary engagements and has taken a stand on many issues, such as female foeticide, and has also been an ardent support of the LGBTQIA+ rights.

  1. Priya Saroj: The youngest woman candidate to win the Lok Sabha elections was Priya Saroj, who fought for the Uttar Pradesh’s Machhlishahr seat on Samajwadi Party’s ticket. Saroj is the daughter of three-time MP Toofani Saroj and is a practicing lawyer. She emerged victorious against sitting BJP MP Bholanath by a margin of 35,850 votes. There were 12 contestants in the fray, including BSP’s Kripa Shankar Saroj, who got 157,291 votes. The remaining nine candidates could not cross four figures and received fewer votes than NOTA, which had 9,303 votes.

  1. Misa Bharti: Misa Bharti, who is daughter of RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav, won against Union minister and incumbent MP from Bihar’s Pataliputra Ram Kripal Yadav by 85,174 votes after having been defeated twice before by small margins. Her win was essential as Pataliputra seat, which covers the rural areas of Patna district, is also the constituency that Lalu Yadav had lost once, in 2009. It is to be noted that PM Modi had himself campaigned against Bharti, who is the eldest daughter of Lalu Yadav and Rabri Devi.


  1. Dr Prabha Mallikarjun and Priyanka Jarkiholi: A total of six candidates were fielded by the Congress party in the state of Karnataka out of which, Dr Prabha Mallikarjun and Priyanka Jarkiholi won from Davangere and Chikkodi constituencies respectively. While Priyanka is the daughter of Minister of Public Works Department Sathish Jarkiholi, Dr Prabha is the wife of Mines and Geology Minister S S Mallikarjun. Both suggest the political legacy that accompanied both the women.



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