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The reality of massive women’s vote bank and the lack of alternatives propel the women’s quota bill
Posted On Monday, March 22, 2010 at 12:55:47 AM
As a senior citizen belonging to the pre-Independence generation, I find that this Bill represents an old reality of Indian politics. It also opens up exciting new possibilities.
The old political reality is this. In our democracy, when political will is exercised, the vote banks and the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor come to play.
Both these factors were on vigorous display when the Women’s Reservation Bill was moved in the Parliament. The votaries of the Bill are motivated by the huge vote bank women provided — nearly half the population of this billion-strong country.
The Yadav or the Mandal brigade, which opposed the Bill so bitterly for more than fourteen years, and so shamefully in the Rajya Sabha, was also trying to cater to their vote bank — the Dalits, the minorities and the OBCs. Hence their strident chant of the quota-within-quota mantra.
The second factor of TINA too is equally on display during the ongoing debate on women’s legislative quota. For the UPA, which is surviving on the politically correct shibboleths of secularism and social justice, the Bill represented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
After all, it was Rajiv Gandhi who introduced the women’s quota in the panchayats and the local bodies. In a way, the current Bill is a permanent political memorial for the former prime minister.
In the last decade and a half, the commitment to the passage of the Bill had become a touchstone of gender justice and political correctness.
How can any politician be against it? Despite the fear of losing their seats many male politicians were also trapped by the TINA factor of political correctness and the party whip.
The strong opposition to the Bill in Rajya Sabha on March 9, when it was moved in the Upper House for consideration, had reduced the options before the Congress to two — either accept the charge of losing nerve to go ahead with the Bill, when the push came to the shove, or bite the bullet and invoke the standard rules of disciplinary proceedings in the Rajya Sabha.
The numbers too were too compelling. Can a small handful of members thwart the majority of nearly 200? Finally, the lack of alternatives and the vote bank calculations triumphed.
The Bill thus demonstrated the old reality regarding display of political will. Does this historic measure also open new possibilities? We can only speculate.
We can be sure about one thing. About what it will not do.Will it induct new blood or new leadership in politics? No. It will only strengthen the well-known element of dynastic democracy in our politics.
Except for the communists, in practice, families of leaders dominate in every political party. Once women’s reservation becomes a reality, the quota of seats will be fully cornered by the female members of dominant leaders in every political party.
The Bill says that the reservation is only for 15 years. The time limit is uncannily reminiscent of the initial period of ten years that was visualised for reservation for SCs and STs.
We can be reasonably sure that, as in the case of reservation for SCs and STs, the women’s reservation will also become a permanent feature of the Constitution.
The antics of the Mandal brigade already indicate that quota within quota will be the next agenda before the Bill is passed by the Lok Sabha.
Will the reservation for women mean less corruption in public life? Sorry,it won’t happen. When it comes to corruption, our experience shows that our women leaders are no less venal than men. Will there be any change on gender issues? The sheer increase in the number of women MPs will develop its own political gravity.
This may have a positive and healthy effect on issues that particularly affect women, like prohibition, drinking water, health and education. That may be the most significant contribution of this Bill towards better governance.
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