Less than 5 in reckoning as 1.1 m Kerala women press EVMs

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Apr 17 2009, 05:35am hrs
Women outnumber men voters by nearly one million, as Kerala went to polls. Chief election commissioner Nalini Netto says that by the latest voter rolls, 11,337,483 out of the total 21,865,324-strong electorate, were women voters. In the electorate-strength, women enjoy a decent 809,642-lead. But surprisingly there are only 15 women among the 217 candidates and less than five are nominees of the main parties.

Clearly none of the major parties in the reckoningneither Congress nor the CPI(M)are committed to equal gender opportunities.

While the CPI(M) has fielded two women, the Congress has nominated only one woman.

CPI(M) sitting MP from Vatakara P Sathidevi, a high profile DYFI (CPI(M) youth outfit) activist, Sindhu Joy (Ernakulam), Shahida Kamal of Congress (Kasaragod), BJPs Rema Raghunandan (Thrissur) and BSPs Madhavi (Kasargod) are the five women candidates. Out of the five, political pundits see not more than two making it to the Lok Sabha.

We went strictly by the winnability factor, Congress Working Committee member and defence minister AK Antony told FE, defending the near-absence of women among Congress candidates.

The newly formed Attingal constituency has the highest number of women votersone lakh female voters more than male voters. Mahila Congress Kerala chief Shanimol Usman had sought this seat. But the AICC offered her the Kasargod seat, held by CPI(M) since 1989. Shanimol declined the seat, citing reasons other than political. Congress was forced to replace her candidature with the All India Mahilla Congress secretary Shahida Kamal.

Despite equal opportunities activist Brinda Karat at the Poliburo, CPI(M) which has fielded two women candidates, is only marginally better. CPI(M)s Vadakara contestant P Sathidevi had topped all the candidates in Kerala in the the numbers of her victory-margin in 2004 Lok Sabha elections. Left had been on the forefront in trying to get the 33% women reservation bill passed, reminds MA Baby, CPI(M) central committee member and state education minister.

In 2004, the party had sent two women MPs to Lok Sabha, but in 2009, it has has shrunk from trying to increase the number of women candidates. Left or right or Centre, all the parties in the state are male-dominated, says Women rights activist and former Naxalite leader Ajitha.

Irrespective of their ideological polarites, they are unanimous in keeping women out of electoral politics, she adds. After Anne Mascarene (an independent from Thiruvananthapuram) in 1952. Kerala had to wait for 16 years to have another woman (CPI-Ms Susheela Gopalan, wife of the famus Left parliamentarian AK Gopalan) in the Lok Sabha.

Following AK Premajams two stints, CPI(M) had sent Sathidevi and CS Sujatha to the House. Keralas only Congress woman MP was Savithri Laxman. She had won twice in the last decade.

At the same time, Election Watch-Kerala, a civil society initiative, observes that despite high levels of female literacy, women in Kerala appear to be not too keen on contesting elections.

The middle class apathy to politicians is one of the reasons say psephologists. women voters not showing much interest inpolitics is likely to loom large on the electoral results in the once-matrilineal state.

Not fair for fair sex

By the latest voter rolls, 11,337,483 of the total 21,865,324-strong electorate, were women voters. In the electorate-strength, women enjoy a decent 809,642-lead

There are only 15 women among 217 candidates and less than five are nominees of the main parties

The newly formed Attingal constituency has the highest number of women voters1lakh female voters more than male voters

While the CPI(M) has fielded two women, the Congress has nominated only one woman

CPI(M) sitting MP from Vatakara P Sathidevi, a high profile DYFI (CPI(M) youth outfit) activist, Sindhu Joy (Ernakulam), Shahida Kamal of Congress (Kasaragod), BJPs Rema Raghunandan (Thrissur) and BSPs Madhavi (Kasargod) are the five women candidates