Thiruvananthapuram: "Looks like another Communist party needs to be made for women," fumed a prominent CPI woman leader after no woman featured in her party’s Lok Sabha candidate list.
CPI stood strong along with CPM to build the Women’s Wall, a recent campaign to uphold renaissance values as claimed by the Left government of Kerala. It seems the party is paying mere lip service for gender equality. All promises about women’s candidature have been forgotten. Men have taken all four seats in CPI's share for this Lok Sabha elections.
Let’s ignore the women's representation in the party's state council. It cannot suggest more than one name for a constituency. But what about its district councils? They can suggest three names in every district. That makes 24 candidates from eight districts. But not one woman! It made state leaders’ job easier – they say district councils came up with no women candidates.
Women voters made up 51.92% of voters in the 2016 assembly polls. It is evident women played a huge rule in LDF’s 91-seat victory. But CPI sidelined women when they declared candidates list in the Lok Sabha polls that followed. Annie Raja, KP Vasantham and K Devaki’s names came up here and there but none during serious discussions. CPI leaders defend it saying no women contested in 2014 either.
CPM, however, did not follow in CPI’s footsteps. At least two seats out of 16 were given to women. It gave two in 2014 too. Tall claims of women empowerment and participation did not convert into seats on candidate list. Sitting MP PK Sreemathi and sitting MLA Veena George became the only women to make it to the shortlist this time.
Both BJP and Congress set aside two seats each for women in 2014. This time, names of Shanimol Usman, KA Thulasi, Jebi Mather and Swapna Patronis are doing the rounds in Congress circles. It remains to be seen if BJP will consider anyone except Shobha Surendran.
Even when more than half of voters are women, they have only 10% representation in the assembly. While the last five governments had one woman minister each, the current government has two.
Women MPs from Kerala so far:
Lok Sabha - 8
Annie Mascarene – Independent (Thiruvananthapuram, 1952-56)
Susheela Gopalan – CPM (Ambalappuzha, 1967-71; Alappuzha, 1980-84, Chirayinkil, 1991-96)
K Bhargavi Thankappan – CPI ( Adoor, 1971-77)
Savithri Lakshmanan – Congress (Mukundapuram 1989-91, 1991-96)
AK Premajam – CPM Vadakara (1998-99, 1999-04)
P Satheedevi – CPM (Vadakara 2004-09)
CS Sujatha - CPM (Mavelikkara 2004-09)
PK Sreemathy – CPM (Kannur 2014-19)
Rajya Sabha - 4
K Bharati Udayabhanu – Congress (1954-58, 1958-64)
Devaki Gopidas – Congress (1962-68)
Leela Damodara Menon – Congress (1974-80)
Dr TN Seema – CPM (2010-16)