Present Assembly has 103 Vokkaligas and Lingayats
As the new government takes over and there are high expectations of “change” on several fronts, a sobering reminder of some things that remain constant is the composition of the Assembly in terms of caste, religion and gender.
Dominant castes in the State — Vokkaligas, Brahmins and Lingayats — which are socially and economically strong and have traditionally enjoyed high representation in the Assembly, continue to have a big presence this time too.
For instance, the estimated population of two dominant communities — Lingayats and Vokkaligas — is 15 per cent and 12 per cent respectively (an aggregated average of percentages presented by four backward class commissions so far). Together, they form 27 per cent of the population and by the logic of proportional representation, the Assembly should have 60 members from the two communities. However, the present Assembly has 103 from the two communities (53 Vokkaligas and 50 Lingayats).
There are 11 Brahmins too in the present Assembly, which is, proportionally, nearly double their estimated population size.
2.6 per cent women
And, while there is endless talk on 33 per cent representation for women, the present Assembly of 223 has merely six women, making up 2.6 per cent. None of the political parties can claim to have given good representation to women while giving ticket.
The trend of under representation of minorities continues, even though their representation has increased marginally over the last polls.
This House will have 16 members from minority communities (11 Muslims, three Jains and two Christians). The last House had 13 minority members, with nine Muslims, two Jains and two Christians (one nominated member).
“If the minorities are to be represented in proportion to their population, there have to be a minimum of 36 minority members in the House,” said Khaji Arshed Ali, former MLC and editor of Bidar Ki Awaaz Hindi daily and author of Karnataka Muslims and Electoral Politics. According to the Union Government’s status of minorities report, Karnataka has a little over 12 per cent Muslims and another six per cent of other minorities, he said.
“It is not that problems faced by Muslims in a constituency will be solved if a Muslim gets elected from there,” says Syed Tanveer Ahmed, editor of the magazine Karnataka Muslims. The argument, however, is for a fairer representation to all communities in legislature and distribution of political power.
In the 14 Assembly elections till now, Muslim representation has been between 2 and 5 per cent. The highest number of Muslims (17) entered the Assembly in 1978 but there were only two members in the 1983 Assembly.