Tamil Naduâ€™s most powerful person may presently be a woman. But women power in the upcoming elections remains depressingly low. Twenty-two constituencies will not see a female contestant in the electoral race this time.
Forget representation of women in the state cabinet, or even winning or losing. The same parties that claim that they will push for 33 per cent reservation for women at the Central level, have fielded just 8.45 per cent of women in the upcoming polls with only 320 women candidates out of 3,783 in the fray.
Constituencies like Velachery, and Madhavaram in Chennai, and Erode(West), Cumbum, Palani, Udagamandalam, Chidambaran, Natham, Ramanathapuram, Palayamkottai, Mayiladudurai, Poompuhar are among the 22 constituencies where there are no women candidates contesting in elections.
According to data provided by the Election Commission of Tamil Nadu, only 11.7 per cent of the total candidates in Chennai are women. At 17.7 per cent, Salem district recorded the highest percentage of women candidates in all of Tamil Nadu. The Nilgiris district, however, will see just 2 women candidates fighting the elections with 54 male candidates.
While Trichy will see 10 per cent of female candidates, Madurai accounts for 12.8 per cent. Surprisingly, western districts like Namakkal and Krishnagiri have recorded 15 per cent and 14.2 per cent of women candidates,while Dharmapuri will see only 13 women candidates out of the total 180.
Vaikoâ€™s MDMK tops the list with 13.8 per cent of its candidates being women, the party is contesting in only 29 seats over all. The ruling AIADMK which is contesting in 227 seats is fielding 31 women candidates â€“ working to 13.7 per cent. The DMK has fielded 11 per cent of women candidates, all in non-stronghold constituencies of the party. National parties BJP and Congress are fielding an average of 7 per cent of women candidates in the upcoming elections. Vijayakantâ€™s DMDK has one woman candidate contesting in the elections. The public portal has only one DMDK list which shows that just one woman candidate contesting in elections, showed the study conducted by Prajnya on Gender Equality ahead of the elections.
â€śThere is always an incremental movement. Is the situation better than what it was before, then yes. The actual question is what is the bar and where are we? How fast are we moving towards the standards? The tendency to be content with finite movement is the pitfall,â€ť says Swarna Rajagopalan, political scientist and founder, Prajnya, on the gender disparity in candidature.
For the urban and rural voters of Tamil Nadu, empowerment of women and their security do not figure in their list of top priorities, revealed a study conducted by the Association of Democratic Reforms. The survey was conducted with around 16,000 voters across the state.
While noise pollution occupied the coveted second spot in the list of priorities for the urban voters, issues like traffic congestion, water and air pollution were ranked much ahead of empowerment of women and security which was prioritized as the 11th most important issue.
For the rural voters, however, issues like agriculture subsidy for seeds and fertilizers, encroachment of public land, water pollution in rivers were more a priority than womenâ€™s empowerment. With just 8.12 per cent of the total respondents across the rural constituencies ranking womenâ€™s empowerment as important, the subject is 17th on their list of priorities.