As the storm triggered by the denial of party ticket to a woman Congress leader in Ettumanur continues to engulf the State’s political landscape, Vaikom, its neighbouring constituency, has set the stage for a rare battle between three women candidates.
The Left Democratic Front (LDF), which currently holds the seat, has fielded sitting legislator and Communist Party of India leader C.K. Asha once again. She will be battling it out with P.R. Sona, Congress leader and former chairperson of the Kottayam municipality, and Ajitha Sabu, former president of the Kottayam district panchayat, who has joined the race as a candidate of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
With three women in the fray, the constituency is now set to witness a one of its kind battle in the election history of the State. But despite all candidates being women, issues faced by women do not feature prominently in the poll plank of the three coalitions. Instead, the campaigns primarily revolve around the conventional subjects of development, inland fishery, tourism and farming, among others.
“This is just because the parties here are using women as part of a convenient strategy to win the election and not as part of the principle of gender inclusion,” pointed out Kochurani Abraham, a feminist theologian.
According to her, the political parties in Kerala are not trusting women enough, which in turn, make them to swim so hard against the current to become a leader. To back the point, she also pointed to an instance in which Akkamma Cherian, freedom fighter and leader of the State Congress, had to contest the election independently after being denied a party ticket in the Parliament election. “It has been almost seven decades but the picture of gender politics has not changed much. The parties have miserably failed to bring women into political space in Kerala,” she added.
Vaikom, venue of the historic satyagraha for temple entry, has remained a reserved constituency since 1977. Of the 10 local bodies in the Assembly segment, seven panchayats are currently under the LDF rule while the remaining local bodies including the Vaikom municipality are governed by the United Democratic Front. Bharatiya Janata Party and the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena, two constituents of the NDA, too command a significant presence across the region.
The constituency, first represented by K.R. Narayanan during the Assembly elections in 1957, leaned towards the Left three years later with P.S. Sreenivasan of the CPI winning it.