A voter displays her voter identity card as others wait for their turn to cast their ballot during an assembly election at a polling booth in Aizawl, capital of Mizoram, December 2, 2008. (Image- Reuters)
Last year, Vanlalawmpuii Chawngthu became the second woman to be inducted into the Mizoram Council of Ministers after a gap of nearly 30 years. The first woman to hold a ministerial post was Lalhlimpuii Hmar, way back in 1987.
This is indicative of the representation of women in Mizoram politics. There is very little space for women — despite them superseding men in academics and entrepreneurship.
Vanlalawmpuii is only the fourth elected woman legislator in the state. The first was Thanmawii, elected in 1978. Then there was Lalhlimpuii Hmar belonging to Mizo National Front (MNF), who got a ticket in 1987.
Then 27 years later, in the 2014 bypoll, Vanlalawmpuii won the Hrangturzo seat by 2,503 votes and retained it for Congress in May 2014. Three years later, she was inducted into Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla’s ministry, becoming the second woman minister in the state in its history.
Women are demanding better representation in Mizoram politics, now more than ever. The state saw a spike in the number of female electors in 2013 and 2014. This year too, women electors outnumber males.
The ratio is 1,051 female per 1,000 male voters in 2018. In 2013 and 2014, the ratio was 1,029 and 1,036, respectively, per 1,000 males. However, the number of female voters were less than their male counterparts in 2011. According to 2011 census, population of women in Mizoram was less than that of men, the sex ratio being 976 (out of 1,000).
Among the constituencies, Aizawl East II has the maximum number of women electors — 1,175 as against 1,000 men. Second in the list of top five Assembly seats with the highest proportion of women electorate includes Aizawl North III with 1,165.
Third is Aizawl South II with 1,158. With 1,157 and 1,156 female electorate, Aizawl South I and Aizawl North I stand fourth and fifth, respectively in the list.
The number of female voters is growing. However, this has become a reason for parties to play mud-slinging politics in the state.
The Opposition blames the ruling government for the deaths of men in Mizoram. According to them, lifting of the liquor ban in 2015 and the heavy use of drugs are why the population of men has declined.
On the other hand, Lal Thanhawla rubbishes the allegation, saying it was during the prohibition years (1997-2015) that liquor smugglers brought in spurious alcohol, resulting in the deaths of some young Mizos, mostly men.
But will political parties field women candidates in the Mizoram polls 2018? The chances are low.
The Mizo National Front (MNF) will not be fielding any woman candidate this time. On the other hand, Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) will field two women in the upcoming elections.
The BJP is, however, looking to bring about a change. The party has included two women in the leadership — Zohmingliani as vice-president and Lalrinkimi as secretary. Along with them, BJP is also including more women to represent the party. C Malsawmi has been officially declared a candidate so far and five other women are likely to represent the BJP in the upcoming election to the 40-member Assembly.
But the problem is not with Mizoram alone. Women remain under-represented in Indian politics as a whole. According to reports, there were only five women candidates in the 2003 assembly polls. The number rose to nine in 2008.
Voter rejection in elections leading to losing polls is discouraging political parties to encourage more women participation in politics. Women who had contested in six assembly polls between 1989 and 2013 had all lost the elections. Assembly Elections 2018: Read the latest news, views and analysis here