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|September 6, 1999||
Issues 99/ Deepa Vasani
'BJP and Congress are practising the politics of enmity and opportunism'
We have been campaigning for the past many years to force political parties to field women candidates in Mangalore and Udipi parliamentary constituencies. But major parties like the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal have shown scant respect and regard to women and their problems in Dakshina Kannada. During elections, however, they all come with the sweet promise that they would ensure 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament.
There is a need to allow only women candidates to contest from our coastal Mangalore and Udipi Lok Sabha constituencies because of two reasons. First, there are hundreds of women labourers who work in the fields and in the coastal fish factories in Mangalore and Udipi. Mostly, this workforce is lead by able women leaders.
For instance, the Congress should have fielded Manorama Madwaraj, who is doing commendable work among women fish workers, from Udipi. But at the last moment she was refused a ticket by the male-dominated Congress politics in Karnataka. Similarly the BJP could have fielded Shakuntala Shetty, the state BJP Mahila Morcha leader from Mangalore.
Secondly, in the Mangalore and Udipi Lok Sabha constituencies, it is the ideology of a political party and not the candidate or his personality that matters in elections. Therefore, Mangalore and Udupi are the ideal constituencies to field women personalities. But why didn't the BJP and the Congress field women when there are able leaders? It is not the politics of equality that the BJP and Congress are practising. They are practising the politics of enmity and opportunism.
The three-time BJP MP from Mangalore Dhananjaya Kumar is so unpopular that I fear whether the women electorate will vote for him this time. Ever since he won in 1991, Kumar has not taken any initiatives for women's welfare schemes. Though he hails from the minority Jain community, he has managed to win each time because the BJP is getting strong in Mangalore.
Likewise, the former minister and Congress MP from Mangalore, Janardhan Poojary, has done precious little for the constituency, especially for women. He has been a tyrannical leader whose only ambition is to engage in petty political rivalries. That is why he has been repeatedly getting defeated. Dhananjaya Kumar will also face the same fate soon.
If people are willing to vote for the BJP, it is partly because they like Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. If they are willing to vote for the Congress, it is mainly because they still recall the love and care that Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi showed to Mangalore. But no longer our local Congress and BJP politicians care for Mangalore.
Mangaloreans are intelligent people. There is no hero worship here. We have seen through puppets like Poojary and Kumar. I do not think the present Congress contestant Veerappa Moily is also a good politician.
In the absence of good, service-minded politicians in Dakshina Kannada, there is a crying need for fielding only women here to ensure that people's development and family programmes are carried out successfully.
Indira Gandhi won from Mangalore to come back to power in 1978. So more than two decades later, women's rights activists like me feel that social justice to women and reservation for them in Parliament should actually begin from Mangalore itself.
Mangalore-based women's rights activist Deepa Vasani spoke to George Iype.
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