Political parties race to keep women in good humour with generous promises in poll-bound Kerala. While the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) announced a pension for housewives, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) went a step further to announce ₹2000 monthly dole for all women in the 40-60 age group. The BJP-led National Democratic Front’s (NDF) manifesto, to be released on March 24, was also expected to announce many sops for women, said political observers.
While the LDF manifesto put emphasis on three Ws, (women, welfare and workforce) the UDF tried to address specific needs of women voters, who outnumber men by 8 .27 lakh in the electoral roll of the state. The UDF has promised a hike in the qualifying age of women for government competitive examinations to 37 years and promised to give mothers with small children, another two-year extension. Similarly, it proposed a ministry of happiness to ensure better domestic life and deal with post-Covid blues.
The LDF said the free food kits distribution will continue. It was started on a pilot basis during the height of the pandemic in March-April 2000 and was extended till May this year. A big hit among economically weaker sections, free food kits played a key role in the decisive victory of the LDF in the local body elections in December. Distributed twice a month, the kit includes basic groceries worth ₹500-600. To counter kit diplomacy, the UDF has showcased Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s pet minimum income guarantee scheme.
“Eying women votes, parties are competing to announce sops for them, but when it comes to proper representation to women in the candidates’ lists, all sulk,” said women activist K Ajitha.
Last week the state witnessed an unusual event at the Congress headquarters in the state capital. Upset with denial of a ticket to fight elections, Mahila Congress state president Lathika Subhash tonsured her head in public. In tears, she accused the party of ignoring women candidates and later announced her candidature from Ettumanoor constituency in Kottayam, as an independent.
A close look at the candidate lists of all parties (LDF, UDF and NDA) shows only 38 women figure among the 420 candidates fielded by the three main fronts on 140 seats. It is roughly 9% representation.
Kerala goes to polls on April 6 and the results will be declared on May 2.