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Women run the politics too in many Himachal districts

The road leading up to the temple is dotted with women managing small stalls –– a visible sign of local woman entrepreneurship.

, ET Bureau|
Apr 12, 2019, 07.01 AM IST
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Agencies
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Of the 338 candidates who were in the fray in the 2017 assembly polls, only 19 were women.
Using an LPG cylinder, she makes tea which she sells to customers for Rs 5 a cup at Hamirpur’s most revered shrine of Chintpurni, nestled in the Himachal hills. Ask Parvati Devi who she voted for, and her guarded reply is: “We know who has worked for us, vote will be for him.”

The road leading up to the temple is dotted with women managing small stalls –– a visible sign of local woman entrepreneurship. Hamirpur has a unique record – it is the only district in Himachal with the number of registered women voters outnumbering their male counterparts by almost a lakh. During the 2017 Himachal assembly polls, 1.48 lakh women voted compared with 1.15 lakh men in Hamirpur district. Women voter turnout in Himachal rose almost 1.5% to 77.25%, almost 6% more than the voting percentage of men.

During the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Hamirpur recorded the highest woman voter turnout at 71%, against 64% turnout of men. In neighbouring Kangra, 67% women turned out to vote against 64% men in 2014.

“Women’s literacy rate is high in Himachal. There is heightened awareness on the importance of voting among women,” the state’s chief electoral officer, Devesh Kumar told ET. Political parties are aware of this. For instance, BJP is focussing on the Ujjwala scheme under which close to 1.13 L LPG connections were given in the state till April 5 –– a stark rise from 1,601 connections till March 31, 2017.

“The women in Himachal are aware –– socially, politically and religiously. It all started with the Prem Kumar Dhumal government in Himachal giving women 50% reservation in the Panchayati Raj elections. We have 50-60% elected woman representatives,” Anurag Thakur, BJP MP and present candidate from Hamirpur, told ET.

Travelling through Hamirpur and Kangra, ET found many cases where women do multi-tasking –– from working in fields to running small enterprises to taking care of families. “Himachal has good roads now, power situation is better and LPG cylinders have reached most homes. We realise the power of our vote,” a group of women in Kangra’s Ansoli village told ET.

Despite this, women representation in the assembly and Lok Sabha is not that high. Of the 338 candidates who were in the fray in the 2017 assembly polls, only 19 were women. Only four of them won –– including Kamlesh Kumari from Bhorganj of Hamirpur district. Neither the BJP nor Congress has given any woman a ticket this time.
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