Lok Sabha election | Parties need to walk the women talk

Three major fronts have together fielded only nine women for the Lok Sabha polls. Parties that supported women’s quota Bill are under scrutiny for not fielding enough women at least to uphold the essence of the Bill, especially in Kerala where 50% seats are reserved for women in local bodies

Updated - March 27, 2024 02:47 pm IST

Published - March 27, 2024 12:34 am IST - Kozhikode

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. | Photo Credit: SREEJITH R KUMAR

When the Women’s Reservation Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on September 21, 2023 it was dubbed as a milestone in the history of the women’s rights movement in the country. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government earned quite a few brownie points and even international acclaim for doing the impossible.

But as the country braces for the Lok Sabha polls, there have been allegations from various quarters that the Bill still remains on paper as it could not be implemented before the next general census followed by a delimitation of the constituencies.

“It was just a gimmick to sway female voters. It was never meant to be implemented,” says Jebi Mather, Rajya Sabha MP and State president of the Mahila Congress.

Political parties that supported the Bill in Parliament are under scrutiny for not fielding enough women at least to uphold the essence of the Bill, especially in Kerala where 50% seats are reserved for women in local bodies. Hitherto, the number of seats any coalition has offered to women in the previous Lok Sabha polls over the past 20 years is a maximum of three.

“We are living in a male dominated society. They will not give up what they think is theirs so easily,” says C.S. Sujatha, State Secretary of All India Democratic Women’s Association and former Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP.

Of the 20 seats in Kerala, the CPI(M)- led Left Democratic Front has fielded three women while the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) renominated its sitting MP Ramya Haridas from Alathur . The BJP has nominated five women across the State. Thus there are nine women nominated as candidates among the three fronts in the State. This is a record considering the history of women’s representation in the Lok Sabha from Kerala, which incidentally is also nine in total from all the Lok Sabhas since 1952.

However, Ms.Mather argues that the BJP fielded five women candidates knowing fully well that the party has no scope in Kerala. “To field the sitting MPs was a strategic move of the Congress, as our priority is to bring down the Modi government at any cost,” she says.

Ms. Sujatha says the LDF has fielded K.K. Shailaja and Annie Raja in key constituencies. “We have come far, but there is so much more to go. Reservation for women in Parliament alone cannot make much change, but it will be a beginning,” she says.

Bharatiya Janata Mahila Morcha State general secretary Navya Haridas finds the lack of women in decision-making bodies within the parties a major impediment. “There need to be women on the candidate selection panel to plead for women candidates,” she opines while supporting allegations that women candidates are often offered least winnable seats.

Noorbina Rashid, the first woman to contest to the Assembly under the Indian Union Muslim League banner in over 25 years, however, feels that her party is not in a position to offer Lok Sabha seats to women as they have only two seats. She also feels that it is the prerogative of every political party to decide whom to offer seats to.

“The political parties take caste, religion and several other factors into consideration while finalising their candidates. But why are such considerations limited to men? Is it because they think they can control how women vote?” asks M.Sulfath, a women’s rights activist based in Kozhikode.

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