While the Women’s Reservation Bill introduced in the Parliament on Tuesday has attracted country-wide discussion, Karnataka has a long history with regard to reservation for women in politics.
During HDD’s time
Janata Dal (Secular) supremo H.D. Deve Gowda, during his tenure as Prime Minister, was the first to introduce the Women’s Reservation Bill on September 9, 1996, as the 81st Constitutional Amendment Bill in the Parliament, which proposed to reserve 33% seats in Assemblies and Parliament. “Though the Reservation Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha, it was referred to the joint select committee by the Lok Sabha. A number of political issues stalled the passage of the bill,” said MLC K.A. Thippeswamy, a long-time associate of the former Prime Minister. Incidentally, it was during Mr. Gowda’s tenure as Chief Minister that women’s reservation in Panchayat Raj was provided as per the provisions of the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution.
Prior to 73rd and 74th amendments
However, Karnataka had a reservation model for women in local self governments much before the 73rd and 74th amendments in 1992. The State had provided reservation to women in the local bodies even in the Karnataka Zilla Parishats, Taluk Panchayat Samithis, and Mandal Panchayats under Nyaya Panchayats Act, 1983, which had been later carried to Karnataka (Gram Swaraj and Panchayat Raj) Act, 1993.
In fact, Mysuru Princely state provided reservation in its elected bodies. The Committee on Constitutional Reforms, 1939, headed by Dewan Srinivasa Iyengar and famous Kannada writer D.V. Gundappa as its member recommended exclusive reservation of 11 seats to women, including one each to Muslims and depressed class.
“Karnataka’s legislation in the 1980s became a model to the country and in fact our act can be seen as the genesis of the 73rd and 74th amendment. Contribution to reservation went to the Janata government headed by Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde, Rural Development Minister Abdul Nazeer Sab,” said former Minister Prof. B.K. Chandrashekar, who also took part in the discussions preceding the Rajiv Gandhi government’s decision to move the 73rd and 74th amendment. He said that though decisions were based on political calculations after Congress’s votes were disturbed in rural areas of Karnataka by the Janata government, the late Prime Minister was “genuinely interested” in women reservation. “In the process, he was convinced about the importance of reservation particularly due to the feudal nature in North Indian states.”
However, despite these strides in local bodies, representation of women in the Karnataka Assembly has remained poor. The current Assembly with a strength of 224 has just 10 women MLAs and the 34-member cabinet has no more than one woman Minister.
Time for more
Meanwhile, former Minister Rani Satish, who was part of the Mahila Horata Samithi, an apolitical group of women politicians in Karnataka, said, “Over the last three decades, thousands of women have occupied positions in political and administrative spheres due to reservation in local bodies, and it is time that they are given more representation. Financial capabilities currently deter the entry of more women into electoral politics.”
Another former Minister Motamma, also a member of the Samithi along with Pramila Nesargi and Leeladevi R. Prasad among others, said, “To address the anxieties of men, seat reservation can be rotated. More women are coming into politics now than in the past.”