Women play a vital and decisive role in the elections in the hilly districts of the state as generally their voting percentage is higher than that of men.
In Pauri Garhwal district which also happens to be the regional headquarter of Garhwal region, the number of women voters is marginally less than that of men voters. The statistics of 2012 assembly elections suggest the percentage of female voters in all the six constituencies outnumbered male voters.
In the last assembly election, 151,248 women cast their vote in all the six constituencies, exceeding males by 21,610 votes.
Pauri Garhwal district has been in the news for massive migration and ever increasing number of uninhabited villages along with frequent man-animal conflict.
Women generally bring fodder for domestic animals and wood for house hold.
Despite the hard and strenuous life and 20% less literacy rate than men, the women of Pauri Garhwal do not shirk their civic duties and contribute effectively to strengthen democracy, said Sarita Negi, president, Bijal organisation that played an important role in the discontinuation of animal sacrifices in various temples in the hills.
The literacy rate for men in the district is 92.7% and women 72.6%.
No wonder the political parties do their best to lure the women vote in the hills and focus mainly on Mahila Mangal Dal in each village or other women associations.
Dr Annupurna Nautiyal, professor of political science, HNB Garhwal University said that there is no doubt that 50% reservation for women in the panchayat elections has made them more politically aware and self confident but political parties have not given more tickets for contesting assembly polls.
Politics in the state is male dominated and the credit goes to the few who make it to the assembly against all odds, said Nautiyal and added that all the claims of political parties made for the betterment of women are only a lip service unless and until their candidacy increases in the party for assembly and parliamentary elections.
This is almost true because there are very few names to count for in the six constituencies of Pauri. Amrita Rawat, wife of Satpal Maharaj, a political bigwig, represented Bironkhal constituency twice in 2002 and 2007 on Congress ticket or Vijay Barthwal who was elected thrice for the Yamkeshwar assembly seat under BJP banner.
In the coming elections also six women have been nominated for the six assembly seats of the district with only Ritu Bhushan Khanduri, daughter of former chief minister BC Khanduri being nominated by the BJP from Yamkeshwar and Renu Agarwal of BSP from Kotdwar. The rest are independent candidates or supported by the regional parties.