Opinion: Women And Politics: Prajwal Revanna Case Raises Uneasy Questions

Parties need to prioritise genuine concerns and respect for women's welfare over political gains and superficial gestures.

May 2, 2024 - 18:30
Opinion: Women And Politics: Prajwal Revanna Case Raises Uneasy Questions
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Prajwal Revanna's alleged sex scandal has sent shockwaves throughout the country, prompting the Karnataka government to establish a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to delve into the matter, with the National Commission for Women (NCW) also taking notice. It's disheartening that individuals allegedly involved in such acts manage to secure positions in legislative assemblies and Parliament.

These appalling actions by lawmakers raise significant concerns regarding women's safety and political parties' track records in selecting candidates for state and general elections. While the Janata Dal (Secular) (JD-S) has suspended Prajwal, it now falls upon government authorities to repatriate him from abroad and charge him under relevant sections of the law.

Damage Control

This incident has taken on a political dimension, with former Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy alleging a conspiracy by the Congress party to tarnish the Gowda family's reputation just before the second phase of elections in Karnataka, aiming to undermine the prospects of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

With 14 seats in North Karnataka going to polls in Phase 3 on May 7, Kumaraswamy asked why the tapes were released now when the Congress allegedly possessed them since December. He also held the Congress government responsible for Prajwal's reported flight to Germany after the April 26 vote.

Read | "Won't Protect Him": HD Kumaraswamy, Uncle Of Karnataka MP In Video Scandal

On the other hand, the Congress accuses the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of campaigning for Prajwal Revanna, raising questions about the BJP's alliance with the JD(S) despite these allegations and its commitment to women empowerment.

Sign Of A Bigger Problem?

The incident has once again brought into focus the use of muscle power in elections. According to a 2023 analysis by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), out of the 4,809 election affidavits of sitting MPs and MLAs, 134 individuals, including 21 MPs and 113 MLAs, have cases related to crimes against women. The BJP leads with 44 such members, followed by the Congress with 25 and AAP with 13. Alarmingly, as many as 18 MPs and MLAs have declared pending cases related to rape.

Read | Prajwal Revanna's Ex Driver, BJP Leader Accuse Each Other Of Leaking Videos

The prevalence of such cases, including charges like assault or criminal force to outrage modesty, reflects poorly on parties across the spectrum. It's alarming how candidates with criminal cases against them manage to win elections. This has been an ugly reality that no one has taken pains to fix.

Women have emerged as a crucial demographic in elections, often considered "kingmakers" and demonstrating higher turnout than men in many instances. However, incidents like these, reminiscent of the Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh episode, could lead to disillusionment among women voters, affecting turnout.

Prioritising Women, In Spirit

Moreover, despite the heavy rhetoric over women's representation, parties have failed to fulfil even half of the promised 33% quota for women when it comes to fielding candidates. This may negatively impact women's perception of politics and politicians at a time when their participation is increasing.

The Parliament must enact stricter laws and the Election Commission should implement more stringent rules for candidate information, especially regarding criminal cases, to empower voters to make informed decisions. Parties, in turn, need to prioritise genuine concerns and respect for women's welfare over political gains and superficial gestures.

It is not a big ask. Now is the time for a much-needed cleanup. 

(Amitabh Tiwari is a political strategist and commentator. In his earlier avatar, he was a corporate and investment banker)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author

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