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Muslims, women get raw deal in ticket distribution for Karnataka polls

Political leaders said the prospect of victory trumps societal representation in matters concerning candidate nomination.

india Updated: Apr 18, 2018 17:13 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Karnataka Elections 2018,Karnataka polls,Ticket distribution
Congress president Rahul Gandhi waves to the crowd before addressing an election campaign rally ahead of the Karnataka assembly elections, in Bengaluru, April 8, 2018. (Reuters File Photo)

Only 22 women and 23 Muslims have been fielded by the Congress, BJP and the Janata Dal (Secular) for the Karnataka assembly polls so far.

The three principal parties have already announced over 497 candidates for the electoral contest on May 12. While the Congress fielded 15 women and 15 Muslims out of 218 candidates, the BJP propped four women but no Muslim in its list of 154 so far. The JD(S) did not do much better, having named just four women and seven Muslims in its list of 126 candidates.

According to the 2011 Census, women comprise around 50% of the population while Muslims account for around 13%. But individually, these groups do not constitute even 5% of the total candidates announced.

Political leaders said the prospect of victory trumps societal representation in matters concerning candidate nomination. Only six women and 11 Muslims were elected to the Karnataka assembly, comprising 224 legislators, in the 2013 election.

“Victory in the polls was the only consideration in our mind while picking candidates,” said Dinesh Gundu Rao, working president of the state Congress. He added that the number of Muslims may go up slightly as the party was yet to pick candidates for six constituencies – including Shanti Nagar.

HD Kumaraswamy, JD(S) leader and the party’s chief ministerial face, said the party would increase its Muslim-women tally because it has announced candidates for just 126 seats until now. “We will ensure that the number of Muslims and women is increased in our second list of 98 candidates. In all, we hope to prop up 15 candidates from each group,” he added.

Repeated attempts to reach BJP spokespersons proved unsuccessful.

BJP national president Amit Shah, flanked by state president BS Yeduyurappa (L) and BJP MP Prahlad Joshi (R), at a press conference during his state tour ahead of Karnataka Assembly Elections, in Davanagere. (PTI File Photo)

Noted writer BT Lalitha Nayak said the patriarchal structures in society are intact despite visible changes on the surface, and this is the primary reason for the under-representation of women in electoral politics. “Unfortunately, there is a feeling that women will not be able to compete against men – especially in politics,” she observed. “As victory is the only criterion that matters to political parties, this situation is unlikely to change soon.”

Nayak held differing standards for male and female politicians as one of the primary reasons for this perception. “For example, if a female politician distributes liquor among her supporters in the same way as some male candidates do, she would be boycotted even by women voters,” she said.

While the writer admitted that reservation for women could help to an extent, she maintained that strict implementation of rules by the Election Commission was a better solution. “This can become a level playing field for women only if the cap on political funding is strictly enforced, and criminal activity is curbed,” said Nayak.

Qazi Arshad Ali, a former legislator, said the 1978 elections witnessed the highest number of Muslim candidates being elected to the Karnataka assembly. “As many as 15 Muslim candidates won back then, as opposed to 11 in the 2013 elections,” he added.

Ali said there were two primary reasons for the under-representation of Muslims in Karnataka politics. “Although Muslims account for around 13% of the population, they are spread evenly across the state... they are not concentrated. There are only two seats in the state where Muslims are a majority – Chamaraja in Mysuru district and Gulbarga North.”

The second reason, he said, was the increasing competition between political parties. “When the Congress was the dominant force, it could get anybody elected. But that is no longer the case. The number of Muslim representatives has declined because the prospect of victory is now the only criterion for consideration,” he added.

Ali said the situation would have been similar for the SC/ST community in the state too, if it hadn’t been for reservation.

First Published: Apr 18, 2018 17:13 IST