A young man, in Kerala’s capital, tells me he hates Dr Shashi Tharoor—the sitting MP of Thiruvananthapuram— he says candidly his vote will not be wasted on Dr Tharoor. But then he reveals a secret that’s been infuriating him: “My wife absolutely adores him. She will vote for him.” He continues, “Soon after our marriage, a couple of years back, we happened to meet Shashi Tharoor at a function and she was absolutely thrilled. I had to remind her that it’d been only 48 hours since we tied the knot.” He then turns to me and asks me who I would vote for? The young man cannot fathom why women would want to vote for Tharoor, and, I leave him still puzzled as to why he cannot influence his wife.
Though families in Kerala have traditionally voted together, it’s unsure how the 1.34 crore women of the 2.61 total electorate of Kerala will vote in 2019. Though there are 7.8 lakh more women voters than men in Kerala, 12 lakh women voters are missing from Kerala’s electoral list, according to Prannoy Roy and Dorab R. Sopariwala in The Verdict. This is the highest among the medium-sized states. If those missing voters were on the list, the difference of voters between female and male would have swelled taking the figure to 20 lakhs— the size of one and half constituencies in Kerala.
There are enough indications that women will vote unpredictably this time in certain pockets and, like the young couple in Thiruvananthapuram—divide the house. Will the woman voter be swayed by the intellect and charm of Tharoor in Thiruvananthapuram or the filmy persona of the BJP candidate in Thrissur, Suresh Gopi? This will have to be closely examined on counting day. However, all major parties have been wooing the women voters in different ways—targeting women’s groups and speaking to them about their issues— trying to influence them. Poll watchers and journalists say emphatically that the participation of women at rallies and programs have increased tremendously this time around. True, even in conservative constituencies like Malappuram, women are listening carefully to the political speeches.