Empowering Women in Indian Political Carnival

It is said that behind every successful man is a woman. Yes, this time Sonia Gandhi stood firmly behind Prime Minister Dr. Man Mohan Singh to push the bill for 33% reservation for women in Rajya Sabha. This is definitely a long expected land mark bill with potential to change the face of political India in years to come. The passage of the bill exposed chinks in the armor of the UPA government which has to now fortify its position in Lok Sabha where the bill has to be passed. And with unpredictable Mamata Banerjee, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh holding the potential veto card, the political strategists have the job cut out for them. One thing for sure is that now there is no going back on the bill as every political party is bound to be in a catch -22 situation. Damned they will be if they don’t support and doomed they will be if they do! Once Lok Sabha clears the bill, the states have to follow the process before it is sent to the President for approval. Few adjournments of houses, some political bickering and some behind the scene give and take are all that stand between the bill and the presidential signature. Not a Musical Chair: Assuming the bill to become Act, what are the repercussions of this important legislation? The political parties have been trying hard to cerate space for themselves as face savers. Quota within quota is the sticking point. Isn’t it enough to have just reservation of tickets for women to contest election instead of a reserved constituency? The complication is introduced with rotational system for five years for representation by women for a constituency whose turn would come again after 15 years. So there is always a hanging sword and the only thing certain is that after five years the constituency will not have women representative for two consecutive elections or ten years. The political future of women candidates would be always linked to time frame and new constituencies and not performance. It is the political parties who would decide their future and not necessarily the people. Even a musical chair would offer a fair chance to all. Family Pack:

It is probable that the seats would revolve between husband and wife or father & daughter or brother and sister teams to represent a constituency alternately. That will ensure that the hard work done in the constituency would be protected. Mostly one can expect management by proxy to beat the system. So brace up for Lalu & Rabri combine to steer their constituency. I wonder if Amethi will be ruled by Sonia and Rahul or Priyanka and Rahul if the need be. May be we would say, “Behind every successful woman there is a man!” Reserving a constituency for women would take away the rights of men to contest elections from these constituencies for that term of five years. Where is the need to have such a complex system? Most of the countries which have reservation for women have done so through the political parties. That would have been easier to implement without trampling on the constitutional rights of millions of men and women also. Fundamental Rights: The fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution of India provide for equality for all before law without discrimination by caste, religion, gender etc. By 108th amendment, a man wishing to contest election as independent candidate, standing in front of the government officer for filing nomination papers, can be told that he is ineligible to file nomination as the constituency is reserved for women only for that particular election and he could try after five years in next election!. This is in direct infringement of his right to equality in matters of opportunities. This will be justified by legal pundits under directive principles of Indian constitution quoted below:“ If laws are made to give effect to the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) over Fundamental Rights, they shall not be invalid on the grounds that they take away the Fundamental Rights. In case of a conflict between Fundamental Rights and DPSP's, if the DPSP aims at promoting larger interest of the society, the courts shall have to uphold the case in favour of the DPSP.” This has been the case every time we had reservations on the basis of castes. Political Subversion: In the name of social justice, we have the case of political subversion of the constituion. With this amendment, a woman candidate contesting from

general constituency may be told to go to reserved constituency with no local base and fail miserably. Rather, in practice, they are likely to be denied their fundamental right of equality of opportunity to contest from any or general constituency also and therefore is restrictive in nature which is against the constitution. So when they are contesting elections, they are representing the political bosses and not the people of their constituency where they are known. Similarly the men would have to vacate their constituencies for five years to let women contest the elections after every ten years. They too would lose their fundamental right to contest from anywhere and represent their own people. Insecured political space: In last sixty years, women have had all the opportunities without restrictions of any kind. They have all been there as prime minister, president, speaker, chief minister, police commissioner, chairperson, teacher, engineer, doctor, pilot and nothing could stop them. Only the political parties lacked the will power to handover tickets for contesting elections as a matter of first right of refusal. So in the current exercise Congress seems to be targeting vote bank of women for long term. This constitutional amendment would result in a social churning with women from the bottom of the pyramid moving to the top for a while before collapsing again and again! And thereafter running helter skelter to search another constituency if possible. Women will be much more insecured of their place in the political space. That is empowering women to bring them up once after every ten years and down after five years. That would be the guaranteed fundamental right of women! And guranteed deprivation for men! Did some one say social justice? Vijay M. Deshpande Corporate Advisor, Strategic Management Initiative, Pune March 12, 2010 Scroll down for my other blogs Or click here www.strami.com

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