Politics still male dominated in Manipur

Imphal: Manipuri society may be predominantly woman but politics has remained a male bastion for ages. Women voters have outnumbered men since the 1990 polls.

But, they have not been able to make their presence felt in the political scenario of this picturesque state in northeast. Out of a total of 17,40,819 eligible voters, 8,89,497 are women who will decide the fate of 279 candidates, including 14 women aspirants, in the Assembly elections slated for January 28.

Poll officials said there are 14 women candidates of whom 10 are from the four valley districts and the remaining four from the hill districts.

The lone woman legislator O Landhoni, who is the wife of Chief Minister M Ibobi Singh, is contesting as a Congress nominee from her native Khangabok seat in Thoubal district. In contrast, there were just six women candidates in the last Assembly elections.

L Mema, president of Manipur Keithel Phambi Apunba Lup, a woman vendors' body in IMA Keithel, the biggest of them managed by the fair sex in the region, says women have not dominated politics as they have done in the society because of lack of proper financial support and heavy social responsibilities.

"The women unlike their men counterpart do not resort to muscle and money power to fight the poll," she said. "There are chances of women winning the poll if there is free and fair poll without the use of money and muscle power," says Mema, leader of Meira Paibi, an anti-liquor body.

So far the Assembly has just seen four women MLAs including sitting member Landhoni with the other former MLAs being Keisham Apabi Dev, Hamingla Shaiza, and Wahengbam Leima Devi. Except the constituencies of Karong, Tadubi, Kangpooki and Thanlong, female voters outnumber males in all the 60 seats.

"The male dominance in politics apart, the fate of the candidates in the January 28 poll will be decided by women only," says T Nenie Haokip, a woman activist.

This time 14 women candidates including three from Congress, two from Manipur State Congress Party, one each from BJP, CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress, are in the fray against the six in the previous 2007 polls.