Sisters in arms: Vadakara, Cooch Behar women voters steal ballot show with high turnout

Representational Image. Photo: Special Arrangement.

Thiruvananthapuram: Cooch Behar in West Bengal and Vadakara in Kerala have something else in common apart from the grisly political violence clouding these Lok Sabha constituencies. Women voters here have a mind of their own, when it comes to elections. Cooch Behar and Vadakara are two of the very few parliamentary constituencies in the country where women voter turnout consistently crossed 80 per cent in the general elections held over a decade.

As per the latest voter turnout data released by the Election Commission for 190 constituencies in phase 1 and 2, Vadakara's female voter turnout stood at 82.05 per cent; the highest women voter turnout in the state. No other constituency in Kerala touched 80 per cent in terms of gender based voter turnout; the highest male voter turnout being 75.5 per cent in Alappuzha.

Female voter turnout of Vadakara in 2014 and 2019 recorded 83.95 per cent and 85.33 per cent respectively. In 2019, as many as 9 constituencies in Kerala recorded female voter turnout above 80%. In 2024, except for Vadakara, women voter turnout dropped in all the other constituencies. Vadakara's high women voter turnout did not witness much change even amidst a general dip in voter turnout across all the constituencies in Kerala. Vadakara has 58,631 more women voters than men. This constituency also recorded the highest difference between male and female voter turnout in Kerala; 8 per cent.

Political violence has deeply influenced the voters in Vadakara in the past decade. In 2012 RMP leader and CPM dissident TP Chandrasekharan was brutally murdered by CPM workers. His wife KK Rema was elected from Vadakara in 2021 in the assembly elections. The gruesome murder of TP Chandrasekharan has had a devastating effect on the CPM in Vadakara. In 2019 Lok Sabha elections, CPM veteran P Jayarajan lost to Congress candidate K Muraleedharan.

KK Rema, wife of TP Chandrasekharan, was elected from Vadakara in 2021 in the assembly elections. Photo: Special Arrangement.

The average women turnout in Cooch Behar in Lok Sabha elections between 2014 and 2024 is 84 per cent. The West Bengal panchayat elections 2023 had witnessed violence across several districts and many incidents were reported from Cooch Behar. Even in the recently concluded elections, incidents of sporadic violence were reported in various parts of Cooch Behar. Still, women voter turnout in Cooch Behar recorded 83.4%, ahead of male voter turnout which was 80.9%. Unlike Vadakara, Cooch Behar has more male voters than women.

Of the 190 constituencies in the country that went to polls in two phases so far, only 17 constituencies recorded female voter turnout above 80% and Vadakara was one among them. What drives women voters in Vadakara to polling booths irrespective of general trends and perceptions?

KK Rema, Vadakara MLA refers to women voters here as the most politically alert people in the state. '' In the past decade, women voters here have expressed strong emotions against political violence. When I said no to being a candidate in assembly elections, I remember many women, most of them apolitical, coming to me and persuading me to contest. My candidature was heavily influenced by the women electors here. They find elections as a strong platform to react. While politics is a keen driving factor behind the high women voter turnout, it also shows their levels of awareness against certain practices they vehemently disapprove,'' said KK Rema.

Representational Image. Photo: Special Arrangement.

Political observers draw parallels between Vadakara and other constituencies in the country. ''I think it is something similar to the voting pattern in places like Manipur and Bengal. Women come out in good numbers and make a statement during elections. It is a reflection of high levels of political awareness and consciousness. It needs to be studied further as to how this trend is consitently seen in Vadakara,'' said Sabu Thomas, head of the department of political science, University of Calicut.

Vadakara witnessed a fiercely fought contest between two sitting MLAs Shafi Parambil and KK Shailaja this year. The campaign phase was marred by allegations of online smear campaign, corruption and uproar over crude bomb blast.

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