Kerala women turn poll aspirants - in large numbers

There is a huge rush of Kerala women who want to contest next month`s local bodies polls because this time 50 percent of seats have been reserved for them.

Thiruvananthapuram: There is a huge rush of Kerala women who want to contest next month`s local bodies polls because this time 50 percent of seats have been reserved for them.

Jaya Darly, 32, a former state vice president of Youth Congress, is hoping that lady luck will smile on her with a ticket.

"I am hopeful that with the new trend of giving preference to young blood, I can be a Congress candidate. I have been in politics since my student days," lawyer Darly said making her case.

The polls are slated to be held Oct 23 and 25. The quota for women in the local bodies was raised from 33 to 50 percent last year.

The Congress and its main, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Kerala`s two biggest parties, are expected to field more than 6,000 women candidates each. Oct 4 is the last date for filing nominations.

Shanimol Usman, president of the Kerala State Mahila Congress, said the number of women who want to contest from her party has risen dramatically. "We have more than 1,200 Mahila Congress units across the state and this was not the case about seven years back.

"At that time, women were slow in coming out of their homes to be in the forefront of the development process in villages. Today women are more vibrant and we have a problem of plenty. It is going to be really difficult because many aspirants will fail to get a seat," said Usman.

Former Lok Sabha member and CPI-M state committee member C.S. Sujatha told IANS: "Kerala has had 33 percent reservation for women for many years. Over the years the participation of women in governance has been excellent.

"It is only natural that more women will now be there to try their hand in local bodies governance. We have no problems at all. Our problem is how to eliminate many women," said Sujatha.

A spokesperson of the State Election Commission told IANS that the total seats for which polls would be held are 21,612, of which 11,135 have been reserved for women.

"Of these, 8,613 seats would be at the gram panchayat level, 1,051 for block panchayats, 169 for district panchayats, 1,121 in municipalities and 181 in five corporations," said the Commission spokesperson.

"The general rule is that in a panchayat if the total number of members is an odd number, then the number of women would be one more than the men."
P.C. George, vice president of Kerala Congress (Mani), the second biggest party in the opposition, says he is surprised by the huge response of women ticket seekers.

"It is a problem because some women cry openly when they are not nominated. I have got similar feedback from other party leaders," he said.
Thanks to reservations, Kerala will also see 605 local bodies headed by women - of the total 1,208 in the state. This includes 489 gram panchayats, 76 block panchayats, seven district panchayats, 30 municipalities and three corporations.


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