Friday, August 23, 2013

WOMEN’S VOTEBANK - Panacea for the Betterment of Women in India

Musings on Improving the Condition of Women in India

In India, women face many problems.

The first problem is that India is not a safe place for women.

In India, crime against women is on the rise and the situation is worsening.

Rapes and sexual molestation cases are reported almost everyday in the media.

Just yesterday, a gang rape has been reported by the media in Mumbai.

Last December, there was a horrendous gang rape in Delhi that evoked widespread public concern about the abysmal state of safety and security for women and even prompted the government to bring about an amendment in the law.

But does anything really change once the protests die down?

Has changing laws brought about any improvement in the safety of women?

If metros and cities are not safe for women, one wonders what will be the state of affairs in rural areas?

Are politicians genuinely concerned about the safety of women?

Are they really interested in women’s rights? 

Do they want the emancipation and upliftment of women?

Will the patriarchal mindset and condescending attitude of politicians towards women change?

Why is that women's issues are given the lowest priority by politicians and political parties?

While various bills are passed at top speed, the women's reservation bill is pending for over 17 years which is a very long delay, and justice delayed tantamounts to justice denied.

From time to time, the media reports derogatory gender-biased remarks made by politicians with a feudal mindset who seem to have no qualms about making disrespectful comments about women.

I feel that there is only one way to improve the situation.

Women must vote as a single “votebank”.

Yes, women must resort to votebank politics.

During elections politicians try to woo various votebanks based on caste, religion and language.

votebank (also spelled vote-bank or vote bank) is a sizable group of voters who vote en bloc as a group for a political party or candidate during elections.

We have votebanks based on caste, religion or language.

These votebanks are patriarchal in nature.

It is the men who decide who their families will vote for.

Women vote in accordance with the dictates of their husbands or fathers.

Women vote as directed by the men in the family.

This happens despite the fact the we have a secret ballot.

In theory, a woman is free to choose and vote for anyone she wants to.

If women voted as per their choice, there would be no votebank politics of the kind which is prevalent today.

One wonders why any woman should vote for a candidate who has a criminal background or displays a contemptuous attitude towards women?

But in the prevailing situation of “votebank politics”, a woman is likely to cast her vote based on caste, creed, religion or language as per the dictates of her husband or father or men in the family.

While casting her vote, the woman will not care whether the candidate or political party is women-friendly or not.

This is how so many gender biased politicians get elected.

The result is that womens issues are neglected and not addressed properly.

Now, it is high time for a gender based votebank - a women votebank.

Most political parties resort to votebank politics.

If you read any election manifesto you may find a number of promises made to the various “vote banks”.

You will find many sops, concessions and benefits aimed to woo and appease various “votebanks” despite the fact that these “vote banks” comprise only a relatively small percentage of the electorate (sometimes as less as 10% or 20% of the total voters).

Women comprise 50% electorate.

(No candidate can win an election if women do not vote for him)

Despite this fact, Women’s Issues are not be given priority in the election manifesto of any party.

Women are taken for granted by political parties and politicians.

This is because women are not considered as a “votebank”.

Women comprise half the electorate and the vote share of women is 50%.

This women’s vote share of 50% is much more than any caste combination or religious community or linguistic group which are considered as “vote banks”.

While indulging in appeasement politics, politicians play the caste card, the minority card and so many other “cards”.

But does any political party play the women’s card?

Women must understand the power they wield in a democracy.

Women voters must realize the value of consolidating their votes into a solid women votebank.

Just imagine what will happen if all women vote together en bloc as a single votebank.

The “women votebank” will comprise 50% of the votes and this numerically powerful women’s votebank will sweep away all other caste, religious and linguistic votebanks.

Once women become a formidable vote bank, it is women who will determine the result of the election.

This is especially true in our “first past the post” multiparty multi-candidate electoral system, in which a candidate with just 30% of the votes can win in constituencies where there a large number of candidates.

Similarly, in the prevalent multi-party system, a political party which gets much less than 50% of the total votes sometimes forms the government

On some occasions parties with a vote share of just 30% votes have managed to form a government.

In this scenario, the “women’s votebank” comprising 50% of the total votes will be the decisive factor in elections.

While other votebanks may be able to influence votes, the “women’s votebank” will decide the election.

The “women votebank” will overshadow all other votebanks.

In such a situation, politicians and political parties cannot afford to neglect this powerful “women’s votebank”.

If this happens, politicians will have to address women’s issues on priority if they want to win the elections and come to power in a democracy.

Women need to ask themselves as to why they vote for candidates who insult women and commit crimes against women.

Will it not be better to elect candidates who uphold the dignity of women and promise to work towards the emancipation of women ?

This is possible in a democracy only if all women unite at the time of elections and vote en bloc as a single group for the best candidate.

Thus, if women want their problems to be solved by the political class, all women must come together and create a “women votebank”. 

Yes, all women, irrespective of caste, creed, religion or linguistic group, whether belonging to majority or minority communities, rural or urban, must unite themselves into a numerically influential votebank which can determine the results of elections.

To start with, “women’s votebanks” can be formed at the constituency level.

Then these “women’s votebanks” can be amalgamated to the regional and national level into a cohesive mighty invincible “election-winning votebank”.

Women must clearly state their gender-specific concerns like safety, security, discrimination, rising crime and domestic abuse due to increasing alcoholism, sexual harassment, rape, molestation, eve-teasing, social taboos and any other local problems faced by women which need attention and alleviation.

Women must tell politicians which specific issues they want addressed on priority and demand results in a time bound manner.

Political Parties and Candidates must prioritize mitigation of women’s issues with a proper time-bound plan for implementation in their election manifesto. 

In fact, every political party manifesto must clearly state what the party is going to do for women, at the national, regional and constituency level.

At all levels, the “women votebank” should vote for that candidate or party who includes clear-cut strategies to tackle women’s issues and redress problems and concerns pertaining to women in the election manifesto and demonstrates maximum promise to deliver in a reliable, effective and time-bound manner.

It is only when women unite to become a formidable cohesive “women’s votebank” will politicians will start giving importance to women’s issues.

Politicians who insult the dignity of women will find it difficult to get elected.

Politicians who provide good governance and a safe environment for women and politicians who are responsive to women’s issues will get elected.

Political parties will start fielding more women candidates in elections.

It may sound bizarre to suggest that women must take recourse to “votebank politics”. 

But it seems that the much-maligned democratic tool of “votebank politics” may actually lead to the emancipation of women in this country.

Yes, in the present democratic system, votebank politics may be the best panacea for the problems that women face in India.

Why dont women unite and organize themselves into vote-banks and try out votebank politics in the next elections in 2014? 

Are any women politicians willing to take the lead?

The only thing a politician fears is defeat in an election.

And repeated defeats in elections can finish off a political career.

So, once a politician realizes that victory or defeat in an election depends on the women’s votebank” - only then will the politician start bothering about women’s issues and try to alleviate the problems faced by women in India.

In the present electoral system of democracy in India, it is clear that the numerically strong formidable “women votebank” can overshadow all other votebanks.

Therefore, women must unite and vote en bloc as a solid votebank.

Yes, women will have to play votebank politics if they want a better life.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013 all rights reserved

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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