Congress short-listing Anglo-Indians for Assembly nomination

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Ivan Nigli

BANGALORE, September 18:  The much-awaited nomination of an Anglo-Indian as a member of the Legislative Assembly is expected to be completed shortly with the Congress commencing the process of short-listing names of some key members of the community.

In the 225-member Assembly, only one member is nominated and that is to the benefit of the Anglo-Indian community, a microscopic minority with a population of around 12,000 in the State. Reservation for the nomination is enshrined under Article 333 of the Constitution, and in the past, apart from the nomination to the Assembly, three Anglo-Indians from the State have been nominated to the Lok Sabha also.

Sources in the Congress told The Hindu that the process for finalising the probable nominee was initiated about a week ago with Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs T.B. Jayachandra and Minister for Home K.J. George vested with the responsibility of holding discussions. While the Government took charge on May 13, the nomination of the legislator has been delayed by over four months, though no reason has been given for it.

Among the frontrunner in the race for nomination is Ivan Nigli who has served as a member of the Assembly after being nominated by N. Dharam Singh who headed the coalition government in 2004. The others under consideration are Dunstan Smith of Hospet in Bellary district and Joel Ponnappa whose name has been recommended by the Mysore branch of the All India Anglo-Indian Association.

In the previous government, Derrick Fullinfaw was the nominated member and, on this occasion, he has stayed away, though the nomination is not made on party lines. Mr. Fullinfaw had been nominated by the S.M. Krishna-led Congress government.

Several Anglo-Indian women too are in the race and some senior Congress leaders have indicated that there could be a preference for a woman Anglo-Indian given the poor representation of women in the 14th Legislative Assembly. Notable among them are B.C. Vaz, former Principal of St Joseph’s College, and Nirmala Peter.

Over four decades ago, Sheila F. Irani was nominated from Mysore, initially to the Assembly and thereafter to the Lok Sabha.

The Congress government in Andhra Pradesh has nominated an Anglo-Indian woman Christine Lazaro as also the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu which has nominated Nancy Francis.

The other States where Anglo-Indians enjoy nomination to the Assembly are Kerala, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand.

The nomination of an Anglo-Indian is scheduled only after a new Assembly sails through a motion of confidence, though in the present instance Governor H.R. Bhardwaj did not direct the Chief Minister to do so given the strength (122 members in a house of 224) with which the Congress formed the government. The nominated MLA enjoys all voting rights including that to elect members to the Legislative Council from the Legislative Assembly. However, voting rights have not been provided to a nominated MLA in elections to the Rajya Sabha.

With Chief Minister Siddaramaiah returning from his tour of China, the Anglo-Indian nomination is expected to be finalised in consultation with the president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee G. Parameshwara. The choice of the KPCC will, however, have to receive the consent of the party high command. Union Minister Oscar Fernandes is also expected to have a say in the matter before AICC president Sonia Gandhi gives the final approval.

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