WOMEN’S VOTEBANK – A Distant Dream?
WOMEN CENTRIC VOTE BANKS FOR EMANCIPATION OF WOMEN IN INDIA
ELECTION DAY IN GIRINAGAR – An Apocryphal Story By Vikram Karve
This happened a few years ago when I lived at a place called Girinagar near Pune.
“I want the day off,” Sushila, our maid, asked my wife.
“Why?” my wife asked.
“We have to vote. Today is election day,” she said.
“That’s good,” I said.
I was quite surprised at Sushila’s eagerness to vote because Sushila was totally illiterate.
Yes, she lived just a few kilometres away from a modern city like Pune (often called the “Oxford of the East”) – yet, like so many others, she could not read or write.
But her keenness to vote indicated what a vibrant democracy we were.
“Who are you going to vote for?” I asked, in jest.
She told me a symbol – “I am going to vote for XXX symbol,” Sushila said.
“But why?” I asked.
“WE have decided,” she said.
“WE” meant her husband.
Apparently, her husband had gone for a “meeting” and it was decided that the entire neighbourhood will vote for XXX symbol.
“So you vote for XXX symbol every time,” I asked her.
“No, last time we all voted for YYY symbol,” she said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because “WE” had decided,” she said.
Of course, she did not know anything about the ideology of the political parties to which the symbols XXX and YYY belonged.
It was none of her business.
Before every election, it was the men who had a meeting and decided who to vote for and the women dutifully complied.
(Of course, the men had a “leader” who guided them in these matters)
Like Sushila’s husband, most of the men in that area were drunkards who lived off their wives’ earnings.
But all that did not matter.
In the patriarchal society that prevailed, the women dutifully obeyed their men, even if the men were good-for-nothing drunkards.
So, in Sushila’s family of 7 voters (she, her husband, her two sons and daughters-in-law, and unmarried daughter), all would be voting for the symbol XXX which had been “decided”.
Added up, it was quite a large number of votes in the locality, and since they all of them voted en-bloc for a certain “symbol” it was quite a sizeable “votebank”.
A few more such solid votebanks could ensure victory in the election, as the victory of the XXX candidate proved.
Around 3 in the afternoon we saw Sushila standing near our gate.
“Have you voted?” I asked her.
“No,” she said.
“Voting time will be over soon. Why didn’t you vote in the morning?” I said.
“They haven’t come to take us,” she said.
A friend of mine who had come over and was hearing the conversation said, “Don’t you know? Someone has to come and take them to the polling booth in a vehicle – and then give them some inducement, here it is mostly liquor – only after that will they vote.”
After some time I saw a van arrive to take all them for voting.
In the evening we saw Sushila’s husband and her sons lurching in a drunken manner on the road, as were most men.
It was obvious that liquor was flowing freely on election day (though strictly speaking it was a “dry day”)
At night, when Sushila came to work, we saw tears in her eyes.
She said that her husband and her sons were drunk – and her husband had thrashed her as he always did when he was drunk, and one of her sons had thrashed his wife too.
“See,” my wife said to Sushila, “you voted for the person who gave liquor to your husband and sons – you all women voted for those who are causing you harm.”
What an irony!
Why do women vote for someone who causes them more harm than good?
IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE A WOMEN’S VOTEBANK ?
Isn’t it a similar story everywhere?
We see media reports of male chauvinistic politicians who make derogatory remarks about women from time to time.
Is it possible for them to get elected unless women vote for them?
After all, women comprise 50% of the electorate.
Though it is a secret ballot, obviously, most women do not vote independently and freely for that candidate or party who may best serve women’s interests.
In our patriarchal culture it is the men who decide who to vote for and women comply meekly.
That is why votebanks are male-centric.
And that is why many politicians have no qualms about denigrating the dignity of women by making tasteless comments, because they are confident that women will still vote for them.
In a democracy like India, the only way women can emancipate themselves is to organize themselves into a formidable women’s votebank.
A women’s votebank will have 50% of all voter strength.
The women’s votebank will be larger than all other votebanks put together and it will be the women’s votebank which will decide the results of the elections.
Women have to emancipate themselves, not depend on men to do so, especially when democracy has given them the opportunity to do so.
I wonder why women politicians are not taking the initiative to consolidate women’s votebanks to address and mitigate women’s issues?
For example, in the place I mentioned, alcoholism was a major issue which was affecting most womenfolk.
If all the women had got together and decided to vote en-bloc for that candidate who promised in his manifesto to shut the liquor shops and introduce prohibition of alcohol in the area, would it not have been better for the women?
A strong women’s votebank will ensure that political parties include women’s issues like safety, security, gender equality etc in their manifestos and try to implement them otherwise the women may throw them out in the next election, or better still have their own candidate.
I feel that the best solution to achieve betterment of women in a secular democracy like India is to have a strong women’s votebank cutting across caste, creed, linguistic and religious lines and including all women.
We have all sorts of votebanks.
Isn’t it high time for a gender based women’s votebank which can be a game changer in Indian Politics?
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About Vikram Karve
A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse – his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.
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