Only three women have made it to the Lok Sabha from Himachal Pradesh in the past 72 years and this time, just two are in the fray.

Women constitute almost 49 per cent of the total voters in the state.

Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Chandresh Kumari and Pratibha Singh, the three successful candidates till now belonged to royal families.

Only the BJP and the BSP have nominated women candidates for the June 1 elections for the four Lok Sabha seats in the state.

While the BJP has fielded actor Kangana Ranaut from Mandi, Rekha Rani is contesting on a BSP ticket from Kangra.

"Women from humble background rising high in politics and carving a niche for themselves is still a big challenge in the country and Himachal Pradesh is no exception. At present, women constitute about 49 per cent of the total voters in the state but representation is not even one fourth and this is a cause of serious concern," said Ramesh Chauhan, head of the department of political science at Himachal Pradesh University.

In politics, what matters is who has the decision-making power. This power is normally with men and until women are given prominent positions, they would not emerge as "empowered" and surpass their dominant male counterparts, Chauhan told PTI.

According to Kamal Manohar Sharma, who also teaches political science at Himachal Pradesh University, the status of women has been high in the state and even before reservation for women was introduced, women pradhans were elected in Mandi, Kinnaur and Kangra districts.

But women were not so keen to climb the ladder to the assembly, he claimed.

Moreover, the political parties also did not promote or encourage the women with humble background, he added.

Political parties go all out to woo the women voters but when it comes to declaring candidates, women get few opportunities, the political experts felt.

To add to it, participation of women voters surpass male voters especially in rural areas but still few women get elected, they added.

A total of 56,38,422 voters - 28,79,200 male, 27,59,187 female and 35 third gender persons - are eligible to exercise their franchise for the seats of Hamirpur, Kangra, Mandi, and Shimla (SC) in the seventh and last phase of polling on June 1. Amrit Kaur, India's first health minister who hailed from the royal family of Kapurthala, was elected to Lok Sabha from Mandi constituency in 1952. Thereafter, no woman got a ticket till 1984.

However, in 1984, Chandresh Kumari from the royal family of Jodhpur who was married in Himachal Pradesh, was fielded by the Congress from Kangra and won as the party swept the election, riding on the sympathy wave following the assassination of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Pratibha Singh, wife of former chief minister Virbhadra Singh unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha polls in 1998. However, she won the elections in 2004 when her husband was the chief minister.

In 2009, Virbhadra Singh was elected to Lok Sabha from Mandi but he quit after becoming chief minister in 2012 and his wife Pratibha Singh won the by-election in 2013.

She again contested the Lok Sabha polls in 2014 but lost to Ram Swaroop of BJP, who was re-elected in 2019. But the seat fell vacant when Ram Swaroop died in March 2021 and Pratibha Singh won for the third time in the by-election held in November 2021 after the death of Virbhadra Singh.

In 2014, the AAP fielded Kargil war hero Capt Vikram Batra's mother Kamal Kanta Batra from Hamirpur but she polled only 15,329 votes and lost.

Even in the 68-member state assembly, the representation of women has been abysmally low and no woman was elected till 1967. Only one woman entered the assembly in 1977 and 2022. However, the highest number of seven women was elected to the state assembly in the 1998 elections.

So far, eight women have been elected to Rajya Sabha from the state.