Only one woman legislator in 10 years

Karnataka may boast of women holding two top posts in bureaucracy, the Director-General and Inspector-General of Police and the Chief Secretary. But when it comes to politics, the State can sing no paeans, more so in capital city Bengaluru.

In a decade, no more than one woman has been elected from the city — Bharatiya Janata Party’s Shobha Karandlaje from Yeshwantpur in 2008. And if indications from the nominations for upcoming elections are anything to go by, Bengaluru’s dry spell with the tryst to have women govern its constituencies is far from over.

The Congress has fielded three women for the 28 Assembly constituencies in Bengaluru; BJP has fielded one, Aam Aadmi Party one, and the Janata Dal (Secular) none.

A look at past records of women candidates’ performance in the State Assembly elections has no good news either. Of the women candidates who filed nominations in the past two elections, a majority of them forfeited deposit (around 39 of 51 nominations in 2013, and 13 of 22 nominations in 2008).

But what is it that makes the political ladder so difficult for women? A senior male Congress leader, wishing anonymity, said the problem starts with not enough women involving themselves in party work at the grassroots. “To qualify for candidature, they should have worked for the party over the years. It is hard to find many such women,” he said.

The Congress’ nominee for Jayanagar Assembly constituency, débutante Sowmya Reddy — daughter of Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy — said that all said and done, politics continues to be “male-dominated, sexist and patriarchal.”

Agreeing that her political connections did tilt the scale in her favour to an extent, she, however, maintained that the party saw her past record of work before handing over ticket to her. Pitted against B.N. Vijayakumar, two-time MLA, is it going to be a daunting task for the 34-year-old? “All eyes are on Karnataka right now because this is one of the bigger States ruled by the Congress. The party had winnability in mind before choosing the candidates,” she said. Ms. Reddy added that the question about women not entering polity was a broader question of not only how conducive the environment was for them, but also how many of them want to enter politics themselves.

An example that is often offered for the latter is of women councillors in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike. The council boasts of 101 of 198 councillors being women, but a common criticism directed against a section of them has been about whether they are functioning independently. In many cases, it has been pointed out that male relatives of councillors, most often their husbands, have been calling the shots.

The fact that it is still difficult for a woman to shirk off responsibilities at home to opt for work that entails no sense of timings or predictability is another factor, women say.

Renuka Viswanathan, 69, the AAP’s lone woman candidate for Bengaluru, said: “Support of the immediate family, with no expectations from you as you are out from morning till late evening, makes it easier. Many volunteers helping me with my campaign are women and they are all very independent,” said the former bureaucrat, who is contesting against Congress heavyweight N.A. Haris in Shantinagar.

She explained the fact that the city is so not used to seeing women in politics with a simple example: “I started campaigning in mid-January and when posters with my photo came up, people actually took notice because it is not common to see political party posters with women’s faces.” She said the other advantage women candidates have is of voters willing to hear them out during door-to-door campaigns.

But she pointed out: “It is nice to hear them say that it is good women are standing for elections and they will vote for us. But that should not be the logic.”

Only May 15 will tell if Bengaluru will break the 10-year jinx for women.

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Printable version | May 25, 2022 9:20:00 pm |