While the Women’s Reservation Bill has been passed in Parliament, a look at the representation of women in the Karnataka Assembly over the years shows a bleak picture.
At 4.5% of the total strength of Assembly, Karnataka’s share of women representation is the sixth lowest in the country. In fact, it is the lowest among the Southern States’ share of MLAs in their Legislative Assemblies. While Andhra Pradesh has 8%, Kerala follows with 7.9%. The share of Tamil Nadu and Telangana is almost the same at 5.1% and 5%, respectively, according to data.
Women representation appeared to have been far better in the first two elections in 1957 and 1962, with 13 and 18 elected, respectively. Women representation remained in the single digit since 1967, except in 1989, 2018, and 2023 when 10 women were elected each.
Currently, of the 10 in the Assembly, three are from BJP, four from Congress, two from JD(S), and one fought as an Independent.
However, the number of women voters has gone up significantly. From 55.13 lakh in 1962, the number of women voters touched 2.63 crore this year. The total number of women voters have outnumbered men voters in at least 17 electoral divisions out of the 34 in the State this year.
Too few winners
On the other hand, while a total of 1,297 women have contested polls from 1967 till 2023, a mere 110 (8.48%) have won. Of these, 74 are from the Congress (the highest), 19 are from Janata Parivar (Janata party, Janata Dal, JD(S), and JD-U), and 13 from the BJP.
Although the number of women contestants has been on the rise over the years, former women elected representatives said the number of candidates fielded by various parties is still not in proportion to the rise in the number of women voters.
In 2018, of the 219 women contestants only 36 were from major political parties (the Congress had fielded 15 women while the BJP and the JD(S) had given seats to five and six women, respectively). The remaining were from smaller parties and Independents. This time, 12 were from the BJP, Congress nominated 11, and the JD(S) 13. The highest number of women (17) were nominated by the Aam Aadmi Party, even though they failed to make any mark in the Assembly elections. The rest were Independents.
‘Have goal, clarity’
Laxmi Hebbalkar, the lone woman in the State Cabinet this time, attributed the poor representation to hesitation and lack of confidence among women, apart from other reasons. “Most of the time, women feel they cannot take up politics as a career as they have other responsibilities. The perception in society is also that women cannot devote as much time towards politics as men. Although the Bill is a welcome move, I feel women should not contest just because the seat is reserved for them. Women should be grounded, have a goal, clarity, and vision in politics. All these years, we only demanded reservation but we did not become inevitable on the ground. We should prove our leadership,” she said.