Kaneez Fatima Roaring for a Second Term in Karnataka Legislative Assembly Elections

If there are tigers in Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, there is a tigress in Gulbarga – incumbent Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Kaneez Fatima representing the Gulbarga Uttar Assembly Constituency in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly. The Tigress in Hijab Kaneez Fatima roars in and out of the Legislative Assembly for people’s causes. Catapulted into political life after her husband and former minister Qamar ul Islam passed away, Kaneez Fatima was elected to the Assembly for the first time in 2018 despite the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Narendra Modi’s strong contemptuous pitch to defeat her. She is the only Muslim woman MLA in the Assembly. She is the only MLA who wears Hijab in the Legislative Assembly!

Kaneez Fatima emerged as a strong leader in her own right during the mighty anti-CAA protest in Gulbarga in December 2019. At her call, almost the entire Gulbarga City turned up for the anti-CAA protest despite Section 144 imposed by the BJP regime in the entire state. She is popular among all sections of the society. The Congress chose to nominate her again for a second term. As a punishment to Gulbarga for electing a Muslim woman as its MLA, the BJP government has denied funds for the improvement of Gulbarga City. Gulbarga is famous all over India and beyond for the mausoleums of its most famous Sufi saints Hadhrat Khaja Banda Nawaz Gesudaraz and Hadhrat Shaikh Sirajuddin Junaidi. The city has kept its peace despite the constant efforts of the Hindutva extremists to drive a wedge among the peace-loving Muslim and Hindu communities. Gulbarga is the home district of the Congress national president and Karnataka’s tallest leader Mapanna Mallikarjun Kharge.

Last week, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi campaigned in the adjoining Jewargi Assembly constituency from where Ajay Singh, son of former chief minister Late Dharam Singh is contesting on a Congress ticket. Rahul Gandhi asked the people as to why will the ‘40 per cent commission’ government offer anything free to the people? He came down heavily on the alleged corrupt Bommai Government in Karnataka. Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Gulbarga has spurred the Congress cadre. Kaneez Fatima is seen campaigning door to door and apprising people of the Congress guarantees of the freebies. She is warmly received by her electorate in different wards of her constituency.

In the 2018 elections, Kaneez Fatima (Congress) polled 64, 311 votes (43.3%) to emerge as the winner. The runner-up Chandrakant Patil (BJP) bagged 58,371 votes (39.3 %) and Naseer Hussain Ustad JD (S) got 14, 422 votes (9.71 %). Wahaj Baba, a cleric from the family of Shaikh Rauza Dargah of Hadhrat Sirajuddin Junaidi mopped up 7, 166 votes (4.83%). This time Wahaj Baba is working for Congress. Kaneez Fatima is facing the same two rivals – Chandrakant Patil (BJP) and Naseer Ustad (JD (S). The Gulbarga Uttar constituency has been altered with about 7,000 voters of minority neighborhoods being merged with the Gulbarga Rural constituency. There are allegations that the names of about 10,000 minority voters have been dropped from the voters list. If these hold true, Kaneez Fatima will have a tough fight. Ilyas Baghvan, who could not get the Congress ticket in 2018, left the party. This time, Ilyas is working for the success of Naseer Ustad for he has an axe to grind with Kaneez Fatima.

A keen political observer and Pharmacist Abdul Ghafoor Quadri pointed out that unlike her husband late Qamar ul Islam, Kaneez Fatima did not take up enrolment of new voters who turned 18. Had she done this, she could have fetched more votes. He thinks that if Naseer Ustad of JD (S) gets more votes then BJP’s Chandrakant Patil may fancy his chances due to the division of minority votes. If a feeling sinks in that vote to Naseer Ustad may go to waste and the BJP may gain, there are chances that the undecided voters may flock back to the Congress.

In a significant development, the All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) suspended its Gulbarga unit chief Abdul Raheem @ Mirchi Sait. This may help in the consolidation of votes for the incumbent. This time also the winning margin may not be much. The voters are weighing all options before they make a decision. Those opposing Kaneez say that even if she is elected as MLA this time, she may sign for the Gulbarga Uttar seat to be converted into an SC-reserved seat for the next election. Then the minorities will lose another chance and their representation in Assembly may reduce further. These misgivings are due to the fact that Kaneez Fatima is Mallikarjun Kharge’s confidant and she may not be able to say no to him if he asks her to sign that the Gulbarga Uttar seat be reserved for an SC candidate. Mallikarjun Kharge has been trying for a long time to get this seat reserved for Dalits. Muslims constitute 52 % of the electorate. They feel that their representation should not be snatched away. Dalits can be assigned some other seat and already have reserved seats.

Karnataka is in communal turmoil. The 4 % reservations to Muslims have been snatched by the Bommai Government. Time and again BJP’s hardcore fanatic Amit Shah has been justifying that snatching away in polarizing speeches. Muslim girls have been hounded out of government schools and colleges in the name of Hijab. Muslims are not allowed to study in government institutions and also in the Madrassas. Where will they study then? Schools and colleges are yet to open on Venus and Mars! The cow vigilante extremists kill Muslims at will and get away.

Kaneez Fatima’s re-election will strengthen secular forces and empower women. The Hijab wearing Tigress Kaneez Fatima’s re-election may give hope that all is not lost yet! Last time, there were just eight women in the Legislative Assembly. Men do not want to share power with women. Many men do not like the fact that despite being male, I bat for female empowerment. As a feminist and a journalist too, I earnestly feel that Karnataka should send more women to the Legislative Assembly and set an example to achieve the glorious aim of the United Nations’ 50 – 50 partnership! The 50 -50 partnership is a long way to go in Karnataka. At least, a beginning must be made!

Kaneez Fatima Roaring for a Second Term in Karnataka Legislative Assembly Elections

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