In Karnataka, parties field just four women candidates

Bangalore, April 6 (IANS) Karnataka has a healthy 10:9.7 male-female ratio when it comes to its over 40 million voters. But political parties have fielded only four women for the state’s 28 Lok Sabha seats.

The Congress has fielded two women, Margaret Alva from Uttara Kannada and Tejaswini Gowda from Bangalore Rural.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) have fielded one each while the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) has no woman contestant though its election symbol is a woman carrying haystack.

J. Shanti of the BJP, the sister of Health Minister B. Sriramulu, is contesting from Bellary while the CPI’s Radha Sundaresh will fight from Udupi-Chikmagalur.

‘This is the plight of our democracy. Even after 57 years and 14 general elections, Indian women have nothing to cheer about. Their representation in parliament is abysmally low. It is yet to cross even 10 percent. Karnataka is no different as only four women are in the poll fray,’ Rani Satish, former Rajya Sabha member and president of the women’s wing of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee, told IANS.

‘Parties have to nominate more and more women to increase their representation in parliament. But unfortunately this is not happening. Passing of the women’s reservation bill in parliament is the only solution to the lacunae. Otherwise the situation will continue,’ Satish stressed.

The Women’s Reservation Bill to reserve for them 33 percent seats in parliament and state assemblies has been gathering dust in the absence of a consensus among political parties.

Asked why her party has fielded only two women candidates, Satish said it was at least better than others in the state.

‘Why is it that when there are almost an equal number of women voters as compared to males, there are only four women candidates out of 73 candidates who have filed their nominations for 28 seats?,’ asked Shruti (writes her first name only), a senior member of the BJP’s women wing in Karnataka.

‘Strangely all the parties are remaining silent on the issue. If women are not encouraged to jump into the election fray, how can we hope for the fulfilment of the cause of empowerment of women?’ Shruti asked.

All the parties maintain that nominating a candidate has nothing to do with his/her gender, but it is the ‘winnability criteria’ that counts.

‘Nominating women candidates does not necessarily mean that a party is for women’s empowerment. A candidate should have enough mass appeal to win the elections. The BJP in the state is doing enough for women,’ said D.V. Sadananda Gowda, state BJP president.

The JD-S declined to comment on the issue.

Tejaswini Gowda, who scored an upset win over former prime minister and JD-S president H.D. Deve Gowda in the Kanakapura Lok Sabha constituency in the 2004 polls, is confident of retaining the seat. Her opponent this time is H.D. Deve Gowda’s son and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy. Kanakapura has become Bangalore Rural following recarving of seats.

‘Being a woman has always acted to my advantage and my gender is no deterrent to me. I feel that women leaders are better workers than men and have proven it again and again,’ she said.

Though the number of women elected to parliament from the state has been very few, at least three of them, Basavarajeshwari, Taradevi Siddhartha and Margaret Alva — have served as central ministers.

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