Women continue to get raw deal from parties in Kerala despite support for Women's Reservation Bill

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Thiruvananthapuram: When the historic "Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam" was passed in Parliament last year, jubilant women politicians, cutting across parties, broke into celebration distributing sweets and exuding confidence that it would enable them to get a fairer deal in the upcoming elections.


Celebrations over the passage of the landmark Bill were no less in Kerala, where over 1.40 crore voters are women and 50 per cent seats are reserved for them in local bodies.

Although the Women's Reservation Bill would be implemented only after 2029 Lok Sabha polls, female politicians widely expected that they would get a remarkable representation in the candidates' list of the general elections.

On the contrary, they continued to get a raw deal in the southern state from the parties that had waxed eloquent about the passage of the historic Bill.


While the major fronts, the CPI(M)-led LDF and Congress-led UDF, have given three and one seat respectively to women, the BJP-led NDA has set aside five seats for their female politicians in the upcoming LS polls.

Interestingly, the southern state has so far sent only nine women MPs to the Lok Sabha since the first general election in 1951–52, despite the highest participation in the electoral roll, 100 per cent literacy, and women empowerment initiatives.

Several women leaders, cutting across political ideologies, have admitted that they expected more representation this time when their parties released candidate lists for the Lok Sabha polls.


While some women opined that the implementation of the Women's Reservation Bill would only help them get a fairer representation in male-dominated politics, others justified their party's decision to limit the number of women candidates this time considering the political scenario at the national level.

Senior CPI (M) leader P K Sreemathi said women's outfits adopt a strong stand for the Women Reservation Bill as the socio-political circumstances in the country are yet to evolve in favour of them.

Though the Constitution stands for equality, the political leadership of various parties need to change their mindset, giving equal space for women, she said.


"In Kerala, the LDF led by the CPI (M) is the only political front that has always ensured their representation in its governments," Sreemathi claimed.

There has been no Left government in the state without the participation of women since the formation of Kerala in 1957, she recalled.

"However, the Congress-headed United Democratic Front, which had ruled the state for almost the same number of years, had governments without the participation of women," the leader said.


The ex-minister also pointed out that the party high commands face "practical difficulties" in giving due consideration to women many a time.

"... when a lesser-known female candidate is pitted against a prominent male candidate, she may lose. That is a challenge being faced by political parties," Sreemathi added.

Senior Congress leader and former MLA Shanimol Uzman, who has always raised her voice in support of fairer representation of women in electoral politics, said they would get deserved representation only when the Women's Reservation Bill is implemented in the country.


However, she strongly objected to the BJP campaign that the party-led government had passed the historic bill to protect the interests of crores of women in the country.

"The BJP's claim is just meaningless and hollow, as they have done that without conducting the mandatory delimitation and the census procedures. It was just an eyewash to gain votes after creating the impression that they stand with women," Uzman told PTI.

While seeking more representation for women in electoral politics, she said that the fairer sex has not always been denied its due.

"This time, I cannot find fault with the state Congress and the UDF for giving just one seat to women. Because all the sitting MPs of the party are first-timers, giving them a second chance is part of natural justice," she said.

Head of the District Congress Committee in Kollam, Bindu Krishna said she expected more women to figure in the list announced by the party for LS candidates this time.

"But when the party leadership decided not to replace the sitting MPs, only Remya Haridas could find a place on the list. As far as the party is concerned, this election is very crucial, and each seat counts at the national level," she told PTI.

Krishna said though she strongly advocated for more representation of women during elections, the party was not in a position to experiment this time due to the unprecedented political scenario at the national level.

BJP candidate in Kasaragod constituency Ashwini ML said her party always stood for woman empowerment and the passage of the much-delayed Women's Reservation Bill was proof of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government's commitment to the welfare of women.

"The Women's Reservation Bill was the guarantee of PM Modi, and he fulfilled it..," she told PTI.

Rejecting opposition criticism that the bill was passed eyeing women voters, the leader said the number of women ministers at the Centre and the women leaders holding significant positions in the party was proof of the respect given to ladies.

CPI national executive member Annie Raja (Wayanad), CPI (M) central committee member, former minister K K Shailaja (Vatakara) and Left teachers' union leader K J Shine (Ernakulam) are the women candidates of the LDF.

The lone UDF candidate and sitting MP Remya Haridas is testing her fortune for the second time from Alathur constituency.

Besides Ashwini, Sobha Surendran (Alappuzha), Nivedita Subramanian (Ponna ni), T N Sarasu (Alathur) and Sangeetha Viswanath (Idukki) are the other candidates of the BJP-led NDA.

The saga of the presence of women MPs from Kerala in the Lok Sabha began with the success of Annie Mascrene, who contested as an independent from the then Travancore-Kochi state in the 1951-52 general elections.

The women in the state had to wait long 15 years to get a representative after the tenure of Mascrene.