The Illusion Of Fair Game: Women And The Karnataka Elections

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Picture by Nita Bhalla for Thomson Reuters Foundation. REUTERS

Will schemes that involve women lead to women’s empowerment or will women themselves being involved do so? A burning question that revolves around Indian elections in general and the 2023 Karnataka elections in particular. In the wake of the current elections, the lack of representation of women candidates has been a long-standing and concerning issue.

If the major parties of the political arena of our country are judged based on the burning question, their defence of the situation will generally revolve around how these parties vouch for the equality and justice of women based on their manifestos and schemes, such as Congress’s  Griha Lakshmi Scheme, which plans to aid women with 2000 rupees, which is not unknown to the masses along with the promise of free public bus transport. 

Is the idea behind these schemes women’s well-being or just another attempt at garnering votes through voter sentiment?  Even though the big parties are on the mission of gender-based politics, the number of women candidates in the constituencies as compared to the entire ratio has raised important concerns about gender disparity and the democratic ideals of the country. It is a matter of shame and speculation that the BJP has only 12 women candidates while the Congress has only 11 out of the 224 constituencies present in the state, which accounts for less than 5% representation. 

The sole motive of elections is an attempt to gain political power and wealth; thus, the candidates preferred by political parties are the ones who belong to dominant castes and have the public image required to win elections, which leads to neglect of minority communities even though women constitute a considerable amount of space in the state. Many reports have usually stated that reservations, quotas, and at times even reforms are the only way forward to tackling this issue. However, the sad reality is that even after several reservations have been made, the elections are dominated by the upper-class male population. 

Undoubtedly, under-representation is associated with the patriarchal notions of the parties, where they view women as incompetent and perceive them as the wrong choice to handle the toughness of politics. Due to this prejudiced notion, women do not get the motivation, willpower or encouragement to work for the betterment of the nation. Women politicians generally do have creative and viable insights but they are always viewed with neglect. 

Harassment, intimidation, and violence are not uncommon pictures being seen in the arena of politics, and women are subjected to such heinous crimes at every stage of their involvement. Fighting against injustice is regarded as a crime. The campaigns and other electoral activities prove to be an unsafe space for women, especially from the marginalized sections,  which gives them yet another reason to withdraw their steps from the electoral space of contesting.  

Money, muscle power, and their importance are other factors in electoral politics that can not be ignored. These two factors have a very gendered perspective attached,  which results in the inability of women to have their fair share in elections. Women are generally not granted enough material resources and incentives to campaign and expand their support due to the established notions of their lack of winnability. Female candidates do not have enough funds to fight for a cause, which leads to the loss of a huge section of people belonging to minority communities.

Women’s lack of representation is a significant loophole in the electoral politics of our country, and major strides arecrucial in different spheres of electoral law. Apart from the obvious need for education and awareness, efforts in the field of encouraging women to voice their interest in politics are very much needed. Lastly, a cultural and societal shift towards the capabilities of women and the disintegration of the patriarchal mindset would lead to major changes in the field of politics and the further advancement of our nation.

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