Tuesday, April 6, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Woman leaders join forces to stall quota bill



Woman leaders join forces to stall quota bill
Kay Benedict
New Delhi, April 6, 2010

Two powerful women joined the ranks of saboteurs of the Women's
Reservation Bill in its original form, thus torpedoing Congress' bid
to push the legislation to provide for 33 per cent quota for women in
central and state legislatures during the budget session of

At the end of an all-party meeting convened on Monday by Leader of the
House in the Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee to evolve a consensus on the
Bill, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and Bahujan Samaj Party
supremo Mayawati made certain suggestions that, in essence, will
jeopardise the fate of the gender empowerment legislation.

At the meeting and outside, Banerjee insisted on a sub-quota for
Muslim women in the Bill, echoing the stand that other opposing
parties such as Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and Lalu
Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal have always taken on the Bill.
Mayawati's party demanded that instead of invading the already
existing quota for SC/STs in Parliament and state legislatures, the
Bill should provide for quota for Dalit women over and above the
present limit.

The two woman leaders in effect set in motion the process for
derailment of the Bill by respectively joining the demand for minority
quota and, on the BSP's part, introducing a new element in the already
existing chaos over the Bill.

On behalf of Mayawati, BSP leader Dara Singh Chauhan said: "We will
not be in a position to support the Bill." He said the BSP believed in
the principle of "jiski jitni hissedari uski utni bhagidari
(reservation should be in proportion to population)." That meant as
opposed to what is proposed in the Bill, i.e. onethird reservation
even in the seats reserved for SC/STs by rotation, the BSP's demand is
to let the reserved seats remain untouched and, in the legislation
proposing reservation for women, provide additional reservation to
Dalit women over and above the existing reserved seats.
To mobilise support for its stand, the BSP, fighting a turf war with
the Congress, has decided to hold dharnas across Uttar Pradesh on
Ambedkar Jayanti on April 14, its leader in the Lower House said.

In the face of such strident opposition, supporters of the Bill tried
to dwell on alternative ways of finding consensus.

Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj apparently
witnessed the mood at the meeting and told Mukherjee that it would
perhaps not be such a bad idea to consider alternative ways of pushing
the Bill.

"Why not look at the Election Commission proposal as well?" she
reportedly told Mukherjee.

The EC's proposal regarding women's reservation makes it incumbent on
political parties to give one-third tickets to women.

Having let the government know that the BJP is willing to support the
Bill in any form, Swaraj decided to make her position clear publicly
as well. "We support the Bill. We have already said we are opposed to
using marshals in the Lower House and suggested alternative strategies
for its passage. But we are completely opposed to quota within quota.
If the government wants to consider the EC's proposal, we are open to
it," said Swaraj.

Swaraj later refuted any suggestion that the BJP was changing its
stand. "What I said today was a reiteration of our stand in the
Standing Committee. There is no change," she said.

The CPM suggested that if, after the passage of the Bill, the
government brings a proposal to give quotas to minorities, the Left
parties will not oppose it.

Though the CPM has been a staunch supporter of the Bill in its
original form, CPM politburo member Brinda Karat added a new dimension
saying if the government wants to give a subquota for backward Muslim
women, she was okay with it.

She, however, made it clear that if such a measure would lead to
further delay on the Bill, then the party is not for it.

"We have stated our position on the Bill when it came up in the RS.
Our stand remains the same and we will continue to press for the
passage of the Bill in the current session of LS itself," Karat said.

All these suggestions could effectively mean that the Bill may get
derailed at least in the remaining part of the budget session when
Parliament reconvenes after the recess on April 15. The government, on
its part, maintained that it will convene more all- party meetings to
arrive at a consensus on the Bill.

Congress sources rejected all such demands and ideas saying that they
are "clear attempts at sabotage". A senior party leader said, "It's a
can of worms; they are not constructive suggestions.

It is a clear attempt to scuttle the Bill. The nature of objections is
not to let the Bill pass on some pretext or the other." In the absence
of a consensus -with SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, RJD boss Lalu
Prasad and JD(U) president Sharad Yadav sticking to their stand of a
sub-quota for backward and Muslim women and the BSP and the Trinamool
also opposing the Bill in its present form - Mukherjee decided to
convene another meeting to discuss the Bill.

Where the pro-and anti-quota parties stand


Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has come out in favour of
sub-quota for minorities in the women's Bill. She had earlier
abstained during the passage of the Bill in the Rajya Sabha.

The government had hoped to persuade her to drop her stand against the
Bill in its present form, but has clearly failed.


The Yadav troika of the three parties has raised several objections to
stall the Bill.

They argue it will benefit only elite women; want sub- quota for SC/
STs, OBCs and minorities; say the rotation formula will leave only 50%
seats for men; and suggest that instead of reserving seats, it should
be mandatory for parties to give tickets to women.


It is in favour of a separate quota for SC/ST women over and above the
proposed 33 per cent reservation for women. Party chief Mayawati is
against the provision for reserving only 33 per cent seats for women
in the Lok Sabha and assemblies. She says the reservation should be in
proportion to the population


It supports the Bill and is against quota within quota. But the party
says it will not support the use of marshals to remove the dissenting
MPs, as the government did in Rajya Sabha.

Sushma Swaraj also said the party could support former CEC MS Gill's
formula of parties giving tickets to women, marking a shift from its
earlier stand.


The Left party is a champion of the cause of women's reservation.

The party supports the Bill in its current form. MP Brinda Karat said
on Monday that the party could consider supporting introduction of
quota within quota if the government came up with a firm proposal, but
at no cost would it accept further delay.

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