Huzurabad: On Monday morning, women wearing their best sarees were excitedly walking to attend Union Minister of Culture G Kishan Reddy's rally in Rampur village.
Local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders had mobilized these women to support Eatala Rajender.
After walking some distance, the women reached a temple and sat under the shade of Marrichettu tree. The rally was scheduled to start at 12 pm. There were around 300 women present at the venue. BJP cadres, mostly men arrived to distribute, scarfs and caps with BJP symbols.
Chakaliamma, 65, was among the first batch of women who had arrived to listen to Reddy. "I am going to vote for Eatala. He has constructed this road. My vote was always for car, and this time it will be for the car," she said.
A man standing beside her quickly comes to her rescue and explains that this time she should vote for lotus because Eatala is contesting on the BJP ticket.
Ironically, Eatala has changed his party but in the constituency, even many people are still identifying him with a car (TRS symbol). This has been an uphill task for BJP to let people know that Eatala's current symbol is a lotus and not a car.
When asked why she is joining the rally, Chakaliamma replied, "My daughter-in-law told me that Eatala is coming and I came to support him."
In the meantime, BJP women workers climbed on a campaign vehicle and started giving speeches. It started with loud sloganeering of Bharat Mata Ki Jai and was followed by a verbal attack on Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.
"Who is KTR? Who is Kavitha? Who is Harish Rao? All these people are family members. They want power just to increase their wealth. Look at our PM. He is giving money to farmers; he has provided free vaccines to all the citizens of the country. Eatala Rajender has been nominated by PM Narendra Modi," said Ramadevi, Nirmal, district BJP president.
As G Kishan Reddy reached the venue, the women were pushed to the sidelines and the men took over the front rows. Women struggled to find a place on the roadside. Even those women who were giving fiery speeches were nowhere to be seen. Except for Ramadevi, only male leaders were accompanying G Kishan Reddy. It was an all-male crowd at the rally.
Women struggling to find place
The same trend was followed by all political parties. They mobilized women but pushed them to margins during rallies.
Women candidate in Huzurabad by-poll
As many as 30 candidates are in the fray for by-poll. Interestingly, there isn't a single woman candidate. Till the last date of nomination, around 61 candidates including four women had filed their nomination.
One of the nominations was filed by BJP candidate Eatala Rajender's wife Jamuna who withdrew it on October 13. Independent candidate Noor Jahan Begum, a resident of Rasoolpura, Hyderabad, withdrew her nomination. The nomination of Kukati Kumari, a resident of Khairatabad, was rejected by the Election Commission. Likewise, the nomination of Bandela Yada Lakshmi another independent candidate from Warangal was rejected.
Out of total 2,37,036 voters 1,19,102 are women in Huzurabad constituency.
Huzurabad is a rural constituency. Men from the constituency go to cities for work or studies leaving the women at home. For every political party, the women voters are important because they are the ones who can flock to the polling booths. While there are chances that most of the men may prefer work over the vote.
"I am casting vote for the first time. My father is working in Hyderabad and my brother is studying in Vizag. Along with my mother, I am an eligible voter. My brother is not voting, but maybe my father will vote," said B Nirupama, a second-year degree student, who was also part of G Kishan Reddy's rally at Rampur.
For political parties, women can turn the tide. They can participate in small group discussions and influence other women. They become non-visible opinion makers. For this reason, local leaders were asked to bring women for small rallies.
Earlier, Harish Rao used to sit among the old women in his rallies. Eatala Rajender used to thank women after every rally. Leaders showing compassion towards women voters was the norm.
However, very few women leaders are seen campaigning in this election. BJP leaders Vijayashanthi and DK Aruna campaigned for Eatala Rajender, while Dansari Anasuya (Seethakka) campaigned for Congress candidate Venkat Narsing Rao Balmoor. Not a single heavyweight woman leader was seen campaigning for TRS.
And they remain just a voter
"What was the necessity of this election? What will the voters get here? This is the clash of the ego of two men (referring to Eatala Rajender and KCR). Life of my mother shall remain the same. Every political party is knocking on our door for votes. Some of them promised my mother Pochampally Saree and some promised free tours to Tirupati. But at the end, her life will remain the same," said a 24-year-old postgraduate female student of Osmania University in a cafe filled with men at Jamminkunta
She said as the election dates approach, political parties will distribute the money among people. "Say there are two lakh voters in Huzurabad. Even if a political party will give Rs 5000 each to every voter, the total money comes to around a hundred crore. With this money a factory will be established, many roads can be constructed. But they are not interested in public service. They are interested in their own service," she said.
She said after the election, the vote money will end up in men's hands and they will buy alcohol with that money and beat their wives. "After getting drunk, they will abuse the women, and even assault them. No political party thinks about these consequences. For them, only the vote is important," said the 24-year-old woman.