Women & Electoral Malpractices 195
temples, utensils for women’s councils were distributed in the
Kamalapur constituency of Gulbarga Dist. In the past, musical
instruments, carpets and sound systems were given. In 2004, the gift
WOMEN & ELECTORAL MALPRACTICES of costly articles, and that too for group interests, like materials for
buildings, sound systems, AC sheets, etc., became the practice. In the
Vimala Afzalpur and Alanda taluks of Gulbarga Dist., the Congress candidates
Attempts were made to corrupt women folk in the 2004 general gathered thousands of women in the name of women’s awareness
election. It is everyone’s knowledge that there was a sustained campaign conventions and distributed wall clocks and even green sarees. The
and pressure from women’s organisations for more women’s same was done in Bellary Dist. Of course, large quantities of liquors
representation in politics. Struggles were unleashed for the past many were given openly and freely in almost all the constituencies. In the
years to elect more women in legislative bodies. But in the recent prestigious Kanakapura constituency where former Prime Minister
election, women were used on a large scale for garnering votes. Till HD Deve Gowda contested, large-scale electoral malpractices were
the last election, we have seen votes bought by offering liquor, money, committed to defeat him. In Mandya district, the home of Chief Minister
clothes, etc., to men folk. But in this election, money and sarees were SM Krishna, Stree Shakti Groups and Self-Help Groups were misused
splashed for the first time at women to attract them for campaigning. by offering them large amounts of money. The only consolation is
that, wherever women have organised under the democratic
Women as Vote-Catching Tools movement, they did not yield to such pressures.
In recent times, more and more women are coming out to cast A most unfortunate thing was that women who were hard pressed
their votes. This is due to the persistent campaigning of women’s for money collectively went to the doorsteps of political parties and
organisations, the greater representation of women in local bodies (also demanded monetary help. In the past at least, it was the political parties
a fruit of the continuous struggle of women’s organisations) and the who went distributing money at the voters’ doorsteps! Water was a
changed social conditions. The Literacy Campaign, Self-Help Schemes main issue in the 2004 election. It is common knowledge that there is
and Panchayat Raj System have also been helpful in raising women’s a direct link between women and water. In many of the areas in
consciousness regarding their rights and roles in elections. In the past, Bangalore City where the water was supplied only twice a week, there
women’s votes were assured by buying the votes of the male-dominated was an uninterrupted supply throughout the election process. But the
family heads. But the political parties have now realised that this no supply went back to twice a week right after the election!
longer works and treat women as vote-banks. This is why more and
more women are now being bribed to vote. Thousands of rupees are Misuse of Religious Sentiments and Defections
distributed in every constituency to mobilise women to vote, attend The BJP made continuous efforts to attract women in the name
meetings and campaign. of religion and religious faith. In Bangalore and adjoining places,
voters were taken either freely or at concession rates to religious places
Malpractices in Karnataka in luxury tourist buses. The BJP was thus successful in getting votes.
In Bellary, the BJP candidate, a manganese mine-owner, has won Such tactics were employed amongst middle and lower middle-class
the election by distributing TV sets and money for marriage expenses women. In many places, women were also offered a ‘bhagina’ (blouse
and other purposes. AC sheets for Stree Shakti Groups, bricks for piece with haldi and kumkuma). In Lucknow, about 22 poverty-stricken
women lost their lives while collecting cheap (Rs 40) sarees distributed
Vimala is the General Secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s to garner votes for Vajpayee. And this happened in “Shining India”!
Association (AIDWA), Karnataka. In Karnataka, the campaign against communalism by artists, writers
196 Integral Liberation Vol. 8, No. 3 September 2004 Women & Electoral Malpractices 197
and the citizens’ forum irked the Sangh Parivar. The culture of tried to make use of the unfortunate death of the film actress Soundarya
intolerance was once again exhibited through an attack on the theatre in an aeroplane accident.
group and the burning of pamphlets in several places.
The trend of hopping to other parties, when denied a ticket, has
become the order of the day, even amongst women. This can be Women’s organisations have carried out a high-voltage campaign
observed in Karnataka too. But these pre-election defections have for 33% reservation for women in the legislative bodies. Several non-
often not paid any dividends. The Congress Women’s Wing President, left political parties argued: “Why should there be reservations? At
Nagamma Keshavamurthy, who has been a legislator and even a the outset, let political parties give tickets to women within their
minister, joined the BJP just before the election, but was refused a respective parties.” In the 2004 election, male domination was however
ticket there also. Another veteran woman politician, Taradevi, who clearly evident in the allotment of seats. Women candidates fielded by
had been elected to the Lok Sabha from the Congress in the past and different political parties in Karnataka were as follows: Congress-7,
had even become a Central Minister, got a ticket from the BJP in the Janatha Party-7, BJP-6, JD (S)-5, Kannada Nadu-5, BSP-2, Arasu
previous election, but was defeated in the hustings. In 2004, she joined Congress-1, JD (U)-1, and Independents-2. Only 36 women candidates
the JD (S) and lost the Lok Sabha election. The former Central Minister from different parties contested in the Assembly election. This proves
from the Congress, Basavarajeshwari, also joined the BJP during the the hollowness of different political parties’s argument! In the
election. previous legislature, there were 5 women MLAs; in 2004, 6 women
members were elected. Only one woman MLA, Bhagirathi
The only successful woman defector was Manorama Madhwaraj.
Marulasiddanna Gowda, was re-elected. In the Lok Sabha, 10 women
She left the Congress and was elected as a BJP MP from Udupi. Her
contested and two got elected.
son, who was her political backbone in recent times, however contested
an Assembly seat as Congress candidate and lost. Likewise, the Conclusion
manganese mine magnates Santhosh Lad and Anil Lad, who are blood
The ruling party won an Assembly election only in Orissa. In
relations, contested from different political parties in Bellary. A flood
Karnataka, we can observe three trends. 1. The people have given
of money was let loose. Santhosh Lad from the BJP won the election.
a clear verdict against the so-called economic reforms policies, which
Their calculation was that at least one family member should be in
are inimical to the life and living of the poor and lower-middle class.
the legislature. Quite a few criminals and goondas were also elected.
They have taught a lesson to the Congress who was city-oriented at
Use of Sympathy Waves the cost of rural people. Many thus voted for the JD (S) and the BJP.
2. Instead of fighting the Hindutva forces head on, the Congress
Another tactic adopted by parties was to allow the wives of
adopted a soft Hindutva and lost heavily. 3. The Sangh Parivar did
deceased leaders to contest the election and get sympathy votes.
their usual antics of fomenting communal flare-ups and created a
Parimala Nagappa (w/o Nagappa who was killed last year by Forest
fear psychosis amongst the people. As a result, the BJP won more
Brigand Veerappan) thus got elected to the Assembly from Hanur as
seats. The Chickmagalur, Shimoga, Uttara Kannada, Udupi and
JD (S) candidate. Smt. Nagamani (w/o KN Nagegowda, State President
Dakshina Kannada Districts were the most affected by Hindutva.
of the JD (U)) got through from Kirugavalu as JD (U) candidate. Smt.
Gowramma Kashappanavar (w/o Minister Kashappanavar who died In the 2004 election, women played a major role in defeating
in a road accident) won from Hungud as Congress candidate. And the ruling party. The main reasons for this were problems like power
Vijayalakshmi (w/o Bandi Sidde Gowda) was successful from shut-downs and tariff hikes, ration prices hikes, non-supply of ration
Srirangapatna as Congress candidate. The BJP also unsuccessfully (Continued on page 190)