Lok Sabha election: Number of women fielded by major political parties in Karnataka remains in single digit

There has been a significant increase in the number of women voters over the years. It has gone up from 55.13 lakh in 1962 to 2.7 crore this year

April 19, 2024 07:13 am | Updated 09:57 pm IST - Bengaluru

Shobha Karandlaje, BJP candidate from Bengaluru North constituency, with party MLA C.N. Ashwath Narayan during their visit to the dhobi ghat at Vyalikaval in  Bengaluru as part of campaign for the Lok Sabha polls.

Shobha Karandlaje, BJP candidate from Bengaluru North constituency, with party MLA C.N. Ashwath Narayan during their visit to the dhobi ghat at Vyalikaval in Bengaluru as part of campaign for the Lok Sabha polls. | Photo Credit: ANI

Women in Karnataka outnumber men in 17 of the 28 parliamentary constituencies as per the final electoral rolls, but political representation continues to be low. Although the number of women fielded by prominent political parties (BJP, Congress and JD-S) has gone up from four in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls to eight this time, representation is still low when compared with the female voter population of 2.7 crore in the State.

While the Congress has fielded six women — Sowmya Reddy, Anjali Nimbalkar, Samyukta S. Patil, Priyanka Jharkiholi, Prabha Mallikarjun, and Geetha Shivrajkumar — the BJP has fielded incumbent MP Shobha Karandlaje and Gayatri Siddheshwar. The JD(S), which is in an alliance with the BJP, has not fielded any woman.

Women winners from Karnataka
After 15 years, two women candidates from Karnataka — Shobha Karandlaje from Udupi-Chikkamagaluru and Sumalatha Ambareesh from Mandya — made it to the Lok Sabha in 2019.
In 2004, Tejaswini Gowda had won as the Congress candidate from the erstwhile Kanakapura constituency against JD(S) supremo H.D. Deve Gowda, and Manorama Madhwaraj had won from Udupi on the BJP ticket.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Ms. Karandlaje was the only one to win a seat. Likewise, in the 2009 elections, J. Shantha from the BJP was the lone woman MP from Karnataka.
From Karnataka, the best representation of women in Parliament was in 1991 when three MPs were elected — Basavarajeshwari, D.K. Taradevi, and Chandraprabha Urs. The lowest representation was in 1990 and 1998 when no woman made it to Parliament from the State. 
The first woman to be elected to the Lok Sabha from Karnataka was Sarojini Mahishi in 1962 when she won from Dharwad North Lok Sabha constituency. She was re-elected in 1967, 1971, and 1977.
The former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was elected from Chikkamagaluru in 1977.

In the 2019 elections, four women — Ms. Karandlaje (who was the BJP candidate for Udupi-Chikkamagaluru), Sumalatha Ambareesh (who won as an Independent candidate in Mandya), Veena Kashappanavar (who lost as the Congress candidate in Bagalkot) and Sunita Devanand Chavan (who lost as JD-S candidate in Vijayapura) — had made it to the list.

Meanwhile, the number of women voters has gone up significantly over the years. From 55.13 lakh in 1962, the number of women voters touched 2.5 crore in 2023 and has further increased to 2.7 crore this year. Women voters outnumber men in Udupi-Chikkamagaluru, Tumakuru, Davangere, Kolar, Hassan, Shivamogga, Chamarajanagar, Mandya, Bagalkot, Dakshina Kannada, Koppal, Chitradurga, Ballari, Belagavi, Chikkaballapur, Raichur, and Mysuru.

Zero-sum game

Tara Krishnaswamy, co-founder of Political Shakti, a non-partisan group working to improve women’s representation in politics, said politics has become a zero-sum game in India. “It is not difficult for women to win once they have a party platform, but getting the party backing is a huge challenge. Local leaders do not want to recommend women as candidates since that would mean a man losing his seat. But, data shows that women have won elections at a higher percentage than men in every election since 1957,” she said.

Arguing that women have the competence to govern and bring valuable diversity to politics, she said the only change we have seen in the last 75 years is in local bodies. “Either political parties should legislate to field no more than 50% men or there should be reservation of constituencies for women,” she said.

K.S. Vimala, State vice-president, Janawadi Mahila Sangathane, said patriarchy is so deeply entrenched that women have to prove themselves before even getting their rightful share of the ticket. “It is unfortunate that the scenario has not changed much despite the women’s reservation Bill being passed in Parliament. Every party voted for it but they are not interested in practising it,” she said.

She said even the ones who have made it to the official candidates’ list are those who come from political families or have patronage. “Winnability may be the criteria but no woman from the grassroots has been given an opportunity. Yet, we should not lose heart. We should continue to fight for our rights with the hope of bringing a systematic change in ensuring greater representation for women,” she added.

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