Mandya: Srirangapatna constituency, in Karnataka’s Mandya district, was once known to be a safe seat for women. The town, most popular as resting place of Tipu Sultan, has elected six women representatives in 13 elections since 1952. However, for the upcoming state Assembly polls on 12 May, none of the candidates in the fray are women.
Despite the absence of reservation, the segment has been governed by women for over three decades. In fact, the constituency was represented by women lawmakers for a stretch of 27 years after the 1986 bypoll.
The statewide pattern of preferring male candidates over women reached Srirangapatna in 2013. The fact that women voters (1,05,133) outnumber men (1,03,742) in the segment this time failed to act as an impetus for the parties to field women players in the political arena.
It is ironical that even the All India Mahila Empowerment Party fielded a man in this segment like Congress and BJP. Overall, Congress has given tickets to 15 women out of 218 candidates in the state and BJP five out of 223.
“The potential of the candidate to work for development is more important than their gender,” a long-time BJP worker Vidya Umesh told Firstpost adding that none of the three former women MLAs strived to develop the region.
The downward spiral
A major criticism attributed to the women lawmakers between 1972 to 2008 is that they had restricted themselves to their own areas. Apart from this, lack of funds for development projects had created an anti-incumbency wave against them, prompting men to make their mark.
Political analyst and president of D Devaraj Urs Backward Classes Forum, L Sandesh, said the era of these women lawmakers was completely different. “They (women leaders) failed to produce second and third rung of political leadership. So, their downfall started soon after their last electoral battle in 2008," he said.
Another pattern of political dynasticism?
Many commentators have speculated that the female political stalwarts of the region stepped aside only to make way for their progenies. Interestingly, the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) candidates for the upcoming polls are sons of ex-women MLAs of Srirangapatna. While the grand old party has fielded incumbent MLA Ramesh Babu Bandi Siddegowda, JD(S) decided to project Ravindra Srikantaiah as its face in the segment.
Family members of the former three-time MLA Vijayalakshmi Bandi Siddegowda and Parvathamma Srikantaiah told Firstpost that the duo had taken a decision not to contest the elections in 2008 itself to pave way for the political future of their sons.
Srirangapatna and its equation with female electoral candidates
Many from the elder generation feel that “women MLAs are best for the problem-ridden town as they are easily available to the public to present their grievances.”
According to political observers, the women aspirants had to face tough competition from men in the poll battles because of their gender. Questions over their capability to govern was one of the most common ones. The women candidates, however, answered the questions with electoral victory.
The inclination towards female politicians in the segment came to a halt after vote-share acquired by them in the last three Assembly elections gradually diminished.
Most of the local women leaders have expressed their displeasure on the matter. “It seems like the trend of recognising the second and third rung of political leadership has finally started in the segment,” the District Women Organiser of Congress Seva Dal, Priya Ramesh said adding that her party would field more women in the panchayat raj elections.
Although no one is contesting the electoral battle this time, the women voters are virtually playing an imperative role in deciding who will govern Srirangapatna.
Issues in the island town
Though created by the Cauvery — which flows through either side of the town — Srirangapatna faces a shortage of drinking water in many residential areas. The situation in rural areas of the constituency is not very different. A robust healthcare system needs to be developed in the region along with good roads and efficient public transport services.
One of the major grouses of the region is the failure of lawmakers to tap into the tourism potential which could play a major role in ushering the town towards growth. The island town is replete with Tipu-British era monuments and remnants of Anglo-Mysore wars which attracts tourists from all over the country. Tipu Sultan’s mausoleum Gumbaz, Sri Ranganatha Swamy and Sri Nimishambha temples, the 15th century Srirangapatna Fort — popularly known as ‘Tipu Fort’ — and the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary are popular tourist attractions of the town.
(Deena D'Silva is a Mandya-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters)
Updated Date: May 09, 2018 18:43 PM