Political empowerment to women
My earlier write up on “Women in Politics” published on 11th March ahead of Lok Sabha elections -2014, ended with very optimistic note believing that the political parties will give 33 per cent mandate to women. I was disappointed with exception to PDP which fielded one woman candidate obviously being President of the Party, when no other national and regional parties had guts to field a woman candidate. State BJP could not come out of the Brahmin/Rajput bastion of conventional mad racial race unlike other states, though scored success on Modi wave ki Jaduai Jhappi. I dare rake up the issue again ahead of State Assembly elections apprehending that women will meet the same fate again as there are reasons for such apprehensions.
Quickly taking an overall view, 16th Lok- Sabha Elections-2014 slightly improved number of women parliamentarians to 61 (11.3 per cent) from 15th Lok Sabha with 59 (10.1 per cent) out of 543, 51 (9.1 per cent) in the 14th Lok Sabha out of total strength of 539 and 22 in the First Lok Sabha which could give mandate to only 5 per cent of the total strength in 1952.Rajya Sabha could accommodate 23 women members only out of 242 in total. This points out that despite mounting pressures from awakening social groups and opinion leaders within the country and directions of the United Nation’s Economic and Social Council to fix participation of women upto 30 per cent , there are still challenges before aspiring women candidates for smooth transition to a system where participation of women could prove productive. Efforts were made in this direction to empower them at the grass root levels. At the country level and at the state levels, the experiment has proven successful. They participated in Panchayat level elections. Even in J and K, women contested at Panchayat level to come out victorious. This became possible due to reservation of 33 per cent to Panchs while no such provision was kept for the Sarpanchs. Otherwise like other states of the country, there would have been some women Sarpanchs. View of Assembly too, is not pleasant. There has been minimal presense of women members. State’s Constitution has provision for two seats reserved for nominated women out of 89. At least 29 constituencies ought to be reserved for women out of remaining 87 which will go on polls in coming months if we want women to be encouraged. So, there is dire need for reservation of seats for women in the State Assembly to ensure women’s participation in the development process of the country and the states.
To encourage women’s participation, attempts were made to clear women’s reservation in 1996, 1998 and 1999, but this could not attain success as the Women Reservation Bills could not be passed. Bill introduced in 1996, was referred to a Joint Committee of Parliament but after intensive debate, the report prepared lapsed with the dissolution of the Parliament. Women Resveration Bill introduced in 1999, again met similar fate on the pretext that there was lack of consensus among the politicians. Strangely in a country where politicians keep harping on empowerment of women lacked consensus whenever the issue of implementation of women empowerment came before them. After losing power, UPA leaders sitting in the opposition now are leaving no stone unturned to oppose the NDA government even on trivial issues. During 10 years’ prolonged misrule by UPA government, no consensus could be arrived at to pass Women’s Reservation Bill but after losing the government, Congress President, Sonia Gandhi has very forcefully raised her pitch to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill which assures 33 per cent reservation to the women in Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and Assembly polls. Quite surprisingly, during 10 years’ misrule of UPA Government, several major decisions were made through Ordinance route despite tough opposition, but Women’s Reservation Bill was never ever considered to be passed through the Ordinance route. Now Sonia has awakened to woe women again. Only after Sushma Swaraj, Minister for External Affairs raised the issue during debate in the Parliament. Still, Sonia has another issue of seeking Leader of Opposition (LoP) on priority agenda, she is very ferociously fighting for it rather than the Women Reservation Bill.
True, women today are awakened, willing and demanding political participation and empowerment through assembly elections but are ignored over the compelling cost considerations and apprehensions of being losers in whole race. Therefore political players hunt for financially sound muscle power to rule the roost rather than competitive. This necessitates reservation of women up to 33 per cent- a long pending demand deferred on one pretext or the other.
On 11th june,2014, Sushma Swaraj, MP and Minister for External Affairs, strongly supported much delayed Women’s Reservation Bill pending for debate in the Lok Sabha. While addressing parliamentarians, she said, “a lot of Parliamentarians have spoken about women’s empowerment but we have done our bit by making a woman Chief Minister of Gujarat. We also have 25 per cent women in the Cabinet and Speaker of Lok Sabha is woman. ” She also requested Congress MP, Mallikarjun to support the Bill. Hopefully, Women’s Reservation Bill will see light of the day during NDA’s tenure. BJP at the national level and at the state levels has allowed 33 per cent participation to women in the organisation. Elections in the State are nearby. State unit of the Party is expected to recommend mandate to women upto 33 per cent. I am given the impression that party at national level is promoting participation of women in electoral politics. There is no dearth of capable women in the State unit barring very few who are more interested in utilising their positions to support their husbands only.
Now since State BJP is likely to announce CM candidate much before the elections, in such a complex State women are pushed to the corner, State unit of the party should take a lead in J and K by declaring a woman as Chief Ministerial candidate? I am not asking for a moon. Political players in the State can avail the opportunity to amend their approach towards empowering women by fielding women candidates in the coming Assembly elections by voluntarily mandating 33 per cent
Dr Nirmal Kamal