Thursday, March 11, 2010

Women's quota Bill hits roadblock in LS

BJP's potential 'naysayers' after meeting LK Advani on Thursday: They don't look very excited about the Bill!

The women's quota Bill, meant to reserve 33 per cent seats in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies on a rotational basis for the next 15 years, has run into rough weather in the Lok Sabha. Suddenly, all parties which supported the Bill in the Rajya Sabha, are facing rebellion in their ranks with MPs openly threatening to defy party whips.

[I oppose the Bill because it restricts freedom of choice, the cornerstone of democracy, and is essentially meant to mobilise votes and not empower women. See my earlier blogpost, An assault on freedom of choice, explaining why I oppose this Bill.

The RJD and SP, as also BSP, were expected to toughen their stand as they have larger numbers in the Lok Sabha. Mamata Banerjee could go with the naysayers as she remains unpredictable.

But what has come as a shock to the BJP, which has been stoutly defending the Bill and enabled its passage in Rajya Sabha, is discontent among its MPs who feel the party erred in going with the Congress.

Their objections are three-fold:
1. The Congress will walk away with all credit and BJP will get none. Congress statements, the triumphalism of its leaders and media coverage praising the Congress and its president alone bear out this point.
2. The proposed rotational system will have an unsettling impact on MPs who have been nursing their constituencies for long. They will be asked to stand aside. The provisions of the Bill and analyses of its fallout bear out this contention.
3. Caste equations, settled over several elections, will be upset by the sudden introduction of this law. What it means is women candidates are untested in caste-driven constituencies in the Hindi belt. Understandably, MPs from Bihar, UP and Madhya Pradesh are most worried.

The rebels are mocking at their Rajya Sabha colleagues, saying they backed the Bill because they wouldn't be affected by the proposed quota.

Sushma Swaraj has denied any rifts within the party over the Bill. But there's no way she could have admitted it either.

Meanwhile, there's cross-Opposition consensus that marshals won't be allowed inside the Lok Sabha when the Bill is introduced, discussed, debated, voted (if at all it reaches the last stage).

As a principle, I disagree with the BJP taking this position. Forcible disruption of House proceedings cannot be allowed under any circumstances. Having faced similar disruptions when it occupied Treasury Benches, the BJP should have disassociated itself from the 'no marshal' demand. But then, I am not a politician!

Second, I sense the Congress working on a different calculus altogether. I don't put it past the Congress to announce a series of lollies for Muslims (the AG asking the Supreme Court to hasten hearing of Andhra Pradesh Government's appeal against HC quashing its Muslim quota is a useful indicator) and even agree to 'consider' Muslim and OBC quotas within the women's quota at the last minute. That would leave the BJP (and Shiv Sena and possibly Akali Dal) in splendid isolation while everybody else would gang up and back the amendment to the Bill which would go through without the BJP's support.

Of course, the amended Bill would then go back to the Rajya Sabha for a fresh vote. The BJP would then have the choice of either voting for communal/caste quotas or voting against the Bill. Since it is unlikely to do the former, the Bill would fall.

That's a win-win situation for Congress and all 'secular' parties, including Left. The BJP would then be painted as the villain of the piece and everybody else, especially Congress, would claim to be champions of what the Prime Minister calls "women's emancipation" and Muslim/OBC empowerment.


cbcnn_Pilid said...

Interesting idea. But remember what happened when the 93rd amendment was introduced by UPA-I. The exception for minorities got the BJP upset but at the same time, it did not want to be made the villain for opposing government quotas in educational institutions. Attempts to get its allies to support it also failed; eventually, the BJP registered its opposition during the debate but fell in line when it was put to vote. That history could easily repeat itself this time as well if the Congress provides the sops to OBC/minorities as you suggest. The BJP could end up making noise against the minority quota but eventually end up supporting the bill because it does not want to look anti-women.

BK Chowla, said...

There must be some thing in it for BJP or why else will they walk extra mile to support the bill ?

Anonymous said...

Has it become a habit for the BJP to get screwed over no matter what happens? Didnt the BJP think this through before supporting the bill in the Rajya Sabha.

venkatesh said...


What you say is pretty logical. However, I am sure the BJP is aware of this risk as well. DOnt you think they would have negotiated this as well.

Sonia has come out and said there is no question of any quota within a quota. Maybe this was a BJP requirement for the bill to go through.

I hope there is some honour even amongs the scoundrels, else bi-partisanship politics is just impossible.

You of course have a better perspective but do you really think the BJP is so wooly eyed to walk into a trap. if the case, then the BJP should wind up and the RSS support Swami Radmev

pdkamath said...

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Keep it up sir.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

You seem to be absolutely right. BJP has made an error of judgement, which is going to cost the nation dearly. The UPA has a vicious game plan as per media leaks. If the bill gets passed, it will give the UPA victory next time and 182 'seat-holders' who can be 'manipulated' in its tunes. If the bill gets knocked down, the UPA will call a snap-poll taking credit for its women's empowerment efforts and will win handsomely because a majority of the people still think that the bill is really going to empower women.

You are right. The bill is just a fraud. Here are some more reasons in addition to what you listed earlier.

Constitutional impropriety: The founding fathers of the constitution did not envisage a ‘proportional’ representation but representation of the people on the basis of population as a whole without any consideration for their cast, creed or gender. To provide proportional reservation on the basis that women account for about 50% of the electorate, is to change the ‘basic structure’ of the constitution and hence it is ‘ultra vires’ or beyond the power of the parliament. In the alternative if it is argued that the structure of the parliament is not altered but only grouped a set of seats exclusively for women, then such an amendment is violative of the principle of equality and hence still unconstitutional. This alone should shut out the arguments in favour of the bill but there are more ;-0)

Logical impropriety: Women have advanced a lot in terms of their status in the society and much more need to be achieved. But by any stretch of imagination, women of today can’t be deemed worse of than the women of 1947. So, when the founding fathers of the constitution did not see it fit to provide proportional reservation for women then, it can not be logical to argue for such now after 60 years. If the argument is that the reservation is to attract more women to the democratic process, would you support the same argument to attract the Maoist insurgents into the democratic path from their current approach of violence?

Moral impropriety: One can not apportion something that does not belong to them. If it belongs to another, full consent and participation of the owner should be a prerequisite before any such action. The parliament is the property of the whole nation and it can not be apportioned in any fashion other than through due process and procedures articulated in the constitution.

Ethical impropriety: Elected members have to act in the national interest and any action in self interest is unethical. Not only that the actions have to be ethical, they have to appear as ethical as well. While persuading RJD chief to support the bill, media clips established that the UPA chair person said, “You have 7 daughters and hence you should support this bill”. If the main architect of the bill openly admits that it should be supported for self-interest, the question whether or not it has any other side interest does not arise in ascertaining its unethical status. Besides, the fact is that the bill itself is unconstitutional as explained above.

Economic impropriety: While attaching the highest priority for this unconstitutional bill, which will eventually be knocked out on legal challenge, the UPA proved its poor management ability and consequently delayed or diminished economic productivity from other more important legislations waiting to be introduced, debated and enacted.

Cost-benefit impropriety: An amendment to the constitution is the costliest option in terms of procedures, protocols and management. Many other NGOs working for real empowerment of women have demonstrated that it was for the political parties to do it on their own without any wastage of parliament resources.

Continued below….

Anonymous said...

Continued from above…

Structural impropriety: The structure of the bill is ambiguous at best. None of the media reports highlighted what is the specific measurable objective of the bill, how that will be measured, what is the benchmark against it will be compared to assess the success/failure of the bill, etc. The only objective touted out is the ‘empowerment of women’ slogan, which is at best vague and does not qualify to be a professional job with proper structure as expected from the highest law makers of this land. We do not know how it will be managed, what the improvements expected over the years is, when it will be measured and what happens after 15 years.

Procedural impropriety: Though technically it was allowed, the bill was first introduced in the RS where it does not have any bearing and if the LS rejected it eventually, the RS time is wasted.

Practical impropriety: Do the political parties practice what they preach? If the UPA or any other political party were so interested in women’s empowerment and ‘really’ believed that it could be achieved by making it easier for more women to enter parliament, none of them seems to have made any efforts to bring women into their administrative structure either formally or informally before articulating such reservation at the law making halls.

Strategic impropriety: Rather than hoping for the best, no credible risk analysis of the proposed bill, their implications, mitigation plans etc, were published, no debates seem to have conducted or transparent records made available to the public to comment upon.

The list can go on and on. In short, it is a con job to fool the na├»ve women of this country along with anyone who cares for the women’s advancement. If something walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it is more likely that it is indeed a duck.

Keep up the good work and your fight. Cheers.

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