Cynicism, casteism haunt women’s reservation bill(Commentary)

May 10th, 2008 - 1:42 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Bahujan Samaj Party
By Amulya Ganguli
Since electoral considerations rather than a genuine desire for women’s empowerment were behind the latest move to revive the 12-year-old legislation for reserving parliamentary and assembly seats for women, its fate may be no different from what happened earlier. The very manner in which the measure was introduced in the Rajya Sabha, with several women MPs shielding the law minister from unruly critics when he tabled the bill, showed that its passage would not be easy.

Among the opponents of the bill in its present form are three allies of the Congress - the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the DMK and the Lok Janashakti Party (LJP); and one Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ally - the Janata Dal-United (JD-U). Amendments are also sought by the Samajwadi Party (SP), which is close to the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) while the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has given an extra twist by demanding quotas beyond the proposed 33 percent for Dalits and Adivasis as well as the other backward castes (OBCs).

It has to be remembered that these critics belonging to the caste-based regional parties are not against the reservations per se, but only against the possibility of upper castes benefiting from the move. In a colourful phrase, while opposing the bill during an earlier session of parliament, JD-U leader Sharad Yadav had sarcastically observed that only ‘parkati’ (wingless) women or those with bobbed hair will become MPs and MLAs if the legislation comes into force.

To avoid this, the regional parties want quotas for the OBCs within the 33 percent quota while Mayawati is in favour of raising the reservations to 50 percent. Considering that this tussle between the regional and “national” parties like the Congress and the BJP has stalled any progress on the measure for more than a decade, it will be na

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