The octogenarian says seat reservation in Lok Sabha and Assemblies should be 50 per cent
“Not just 33 per cent reservation of the seats, women should be have 50 per cent quota in the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies,” says Sarojini Mahishi, the spirited octogenarian who was elected to the Lok Sabha for four terms between 1962 and 1980 and was later nominated to the Rajya Sabha twice.
She believes that women can play a role in cleansing politics and says that she “wouldn’t mind” contesting elections for the cause if given ticket even now.
In the 1962 elections to the third Lok Sabha, Ms. Mahishi was not only the first woman to be elected from the State, but also one of three from across the country to have bagged more than 70 per cent of votes in the constituency from which they won.
That year, while Ms. Mahishi bagged 71.68 per cent of polled votes from Dharwad North on Congress ticket, Vijayaraje Scindia from Gwalior polled 75.90 per cent votes and Gayatri Devi Sawai Mansingh from Jaipur 77.08 per cent.
This was no mean achievement for the daughter of a lawyer from a middle-class family in Dharwad, with no background in politics. “I didn’t lobby for ticket,” recalls Ms. Mahishi. “I spent less Rs. 10,000 for the election then,” she says. A lawyer and writer, it was her interest in social service that drew her into politics. Ms. Mahishi went onto win the next three elections and served as Minister in the Cabinet of the late Indira Gandhi. There is no missing the pride in her voice as she recalls how she translated Ms. Gandhi’s speeches from Hindi to Kannada during her campaigns in the State. “She didn’t believe in word-to-word translations. She would speak for 10 or 12 minutes and ask me to translate the spirit of what she had said,” she says.
Ms. Mahishi is also a Hindi scholar and served as the president of Sansadiya Hindi Parishad. She has translated many Marathi and Kannada works into Hindi. In the 1980s, she headed a committee that presented a report on reservation for Kannadigas in Central government jobs.
Ms. Mahishi is impatient with questions on how she nurtured her varied interests. Ask her how she took to politics and pat comes the reply: “I am interested in many things… literature, politics, house work and more. I can’t tell how interests grew. It is not as if I fed some special manure to make them grow.”