Kerala

The politics of women taking on the chieftains

DF candidate at Malampuzha constituency Lathika Subash  

That two women have been chosen by their respective political bosses to take on the probable chief ministerial candidates of the rival fronts in the coming State Assembly polls has evoked more than ordinary interest among many.

While the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has picked Suja Susan George to contest against United Democratic Front's star candidate Oommen Chandy at Puthuppally, the task to challenge Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan at Malampuzha has fallen on Lathika Subhash of the Congress, both hailing from Kottayam district. Incidentally, Mr. Chandy is meeting the second woman rival in successive elections, his opponent last time being Sindhu Joy of the CPI(M), who is not in the fray this time.

The choice of the rival fronts has given rise to the question whether the two women have been chosen as part of the patriarchal political strategy of ‘accommodating' women on the candidates list by extending them seats where chances of success are slim, which, for that very reason, have few takers from among the male folk.

The candidates themselves do not seem to think so. ‘‘I don't take it that way,'' says Ms. George. ‘‘This is basically a political struggle and neither of the fronts can take it lightly. This is a clear indication that political parties have acknowledged the political enlightenment of women and have recognised their role in the political process,'' she adds.

In the opposite camp, Ms. Subhash, speaking to The Hindu on the telephone, appears to agree with Ms. George. ‘‘This is an ideological battle and the party has reposed faith in me to lead it in one of the key constituencies,'' she said.

However, there are others who do not agree. Leading feminist academic J. Devika, Associate Professor, Centre for Development Studies (CDS), is one of those with a different take on this type of candidate selection. ‘‘The general perception is that women candidates have lesser chance of success in elections. The entire selection process is done on the basis of this basic concept,'' she says.

According to her, most of the woman candidates who are selected ‘to lead the struggle' in such constituencies are comparatively newcomers, with little or less experience in politics. They accept such offers without much protest because it gives them a chance to establish new political connections and win public attention within a short span of time. As such, it would also suit those who seek upward mobility in mainstream politics, she points out.

Ms. George feels that her party might have deputed her to lead the key contest considering her active role in educational, cultural and eco-gender issues. ‘‘One of the key issues in the election would be the general rot in public life. Mr. Chandy would have to answer the issues raised by the candidature of (R. Balakrishna) Pillai, the re-emergence of the allegations against (Muslim League leader P.K.) Kunhalikutty and also the palmolein import case. My candidature would help open such discussions,'' she said.

‘‘I have been in public life for the past two decades and have intervened in issues concerning women and other marginalised sections all through my political career,'' said Ms. Subhash. ‘‘My party believes that I am the ideal person to challenge Mr. V.S. Achuthanandan who had gone back on all the promises he had made as Leader of the Opposition, especially those relating to atrocities against women,'' she said.

Now that the two women candidates are all set to take on their mighty rivals, the questions doing the rounds is whether their candidature would add a new dimension to the contest in the two key constituencies or whether it would end up as just another experiment that legitimises the male-dictated political agenda.


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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 7:53:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/The-politics-of-women-taking-on-the-chieftains/article14964142.ece

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