Bengaluru: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi unveiled the party’s ‘Na Nayaki’, or ‘I’m a leader’ scheme in Karnataka Monday, in a bid to attract the state’s women voters. Under the proposed scheme, the party promises Rs 2,000 to every female head of household if it were to be elected to power in the assembly elections scheduled to be held in the state later this year.
The Congress claims the policy is meant to empower women in poll-bound Karnataka. And yet, its own setup leaves much to be desired — women leaders ThePrint spoke to claimed that they have often been passed over, during ticket distribution for assembly and legislative council elections, for their male counterparts who continue to occupy key decision-making posts.
A woman office bearer from the Congress’s Karnataka unit, who didn’t want to be named, called the situation “sad, inappropriate, disheartening and challenging”.
“From the last election to this one, I will be the one working and they (party leadership) will prop up someone who’s male and has loads of money on a white horse,” she alleged.
Another leader claimed women’s representation in all elected state and local bodies was “terrible”.
The numbers are telling. Data from the state legislature shows that there are only 11 women in the 224-member Karnataka assembly — six from the Congress, three from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), one from the Janata Dal (Secular), and one nominated member.
Meanwhile, Karnataka Vidhana Parishad, or the legislative council, has three women legislators — all of them from the BJP.
Pushpa Amarnath, president of the Mahila Congress in Karnataka, isn’t part of either house.
When contacted, Sowmya Reddy, the Congress MLA from Bengaluru’s Jayanagar and one of the party’s only six women legislators in the lower house, told ThePrint that the party was going to conduct “surveys” that would, among other things, help identify women leaders.
“Surveys are going to be done in each and every constituency of the state,” Reddy said.
Meanwhile, the ‘Na Nayaki’ scheme has been ridiculed by state Chief Minister and BJP leader Basavaraj Bommai, who said “women in Karnataka are not ready” to make Gandhi the leader.
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‘Will prioritise women’
None of the top leaders in the Congress’s Karnataka unit are women. All seven of the Congress’s top leaders in the state — Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) chief D.K. Shivakumar, former chief minister and current leader of opposition Siddaramaiah, and all five working presidents of the state — are men.
Last May KPCC general secretary Kavitha Reddy took to social media to lash out at the party for its “patriarchy” and “injustice”, speaking in the context of the party’s selection of candidates for the legislative council elections.
“Are women not competent and capable?” Reddy said in a video she posted on Facebook. “For the third time in a row, the Karnataka Congress has not given any representation to the women in the legislative council. Even the seats which were vacated by the women leaders were given to the male leaders. It asks very serious questions… are women not competent and capable or are they taken for granted or are women leaders not required in the party.”
Sources in the Congress told ThePrint that of the 1,350 people who wanted to be considered for party tickets in the upcoming elections, just over 100 were women.
Hours after Gandhi unveiled ‘Na Nayaki’, CM Bommai mocked the scheme as well as Gandhi. He said that the Congress had made the promise knowing that it was never coming to power in the state.
“Today people have to say ‘Na Nayaki’ by keeping Priyanka Gandhi’s photo. Such a situation has risen where Priyanka Gandhi has to announce herself as a woman leader,” Bommai said. “The women of Karnataka are not ready to make her the leader. So, Priyanka has made a self-proclamation as a leader,” he said.
The Congress, meanwhile, says that the party remains committed to fixing its internal problems and giving tickets to women in the upcoming elections.
“We are going to prioritise women and keep social justice in mind as it is very important for us,” Congress MLA Sowmya Reddy told ThePrint.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)
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