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|February 12, 1998|
Politicians dish out unfair deal for fair sex
The number of women contestants in Karnataka has registered a sharp decline as major political parties, despite advocating reservation for the fair sex in legislative bodies, have given them a raw deal.
Thus, from 70 women in the last election, the number has come down to just 10 in the state's 28 constituencies, where polls will be held in two phases. And this, despite the fact that women constitute 50 per cent of the 33 million electorate!
The Lok Shakti, which is contesting 10 seats in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party, has fielded only two women candidates. The other main contenders -- the Congress, the ruling Janata Dal and the BJP -- have nominated one each.
While Laxmi Devi V H Master is contesting from Raichur as a Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) nominee, Lalita G Hegde is the Samajwadi Party candidate in Kanara. The other three women candidates are Independents.
Last election, though the number of women contestants was impressive, only one woman emerged victorious -- the Janata Dal's greenhorn Ratnamala Savanoor, defeating former Union minister B Shankaranand at Chikkodi. Though she later became a Union minister, the Dal did not renominate her this time, choosing former legislator Shakuntala Chougale for the seat.
The fair sex have always had a raw deal in Lok Sabha polls. There was no representation in 1952 and 1957. In 1962, Sarojini Mahishi, the lone woman contestant that year, won from Dharwad North. She won the seat again in 1967 (there were two women candidates). In 1971 there was only one woman candidate, while 1977 saw four.
The 1980s, too, were indifferent to women. In 1980, of the 190 candidates only one belonged to the fair sex. The number rose to seven in 1984, of which two emerged victorious. In the 1989 election, one of the eight women contestants won; in 1991, three of the 15 candidates emerged victorious.
Most political leaders admitted that it was impossible to provide 33 per cent reservation for women unless the Bill in this regard was adopted.
"We can't lose a seat to honour our commitment," a senior JD leader said on the condition of anonymity.
The BJP and Congress spokespersons also echoed this view, saying they wanted to go in for only 'winning candidates.'
The Congress has fielded former Union minister Margaret Alva in Kanara. It denied a ticket to former Union minister Taradevi at the last minute in Chikmagalur, replacing her with former chief minister M Veerappa Moily.
The Lok Shakti has fielded Jayanthi, a political greenhorn but wellknown actress in the south, against former Union minister R L Jalappa of the Congress. In Chikkaballapur, Katamma, an Independent, will fight Karnataka Agriculture Minister C Byre Gowda.
The Lok Shakti's Susheela Keshavamurthy is fielded in Chamarajanagar.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded former women's wing president Susheela Shivappa in Hassan. She will take on former prime minister H Deve Gowda of the Janata Dal and former Congress minister H C Srikantaiah. U M Komala, alias Bhagya, is also in the fray. In Bagalkot, Neelappa Yankappa Rathod is in the fray as an Independent.
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