Women's Reservation Bill: Despite all the support, what ails the amendment
The Women's Reservation Bill is one of its kind for bringing about consensus as well as heavy opposition cutting across party lines. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is mulling introduction of the bill in the winter session of the parliament. Despite gaining public support, backing from every political party, the Women's Reservation Bill continues to face opposition. Here is why.
The Women's Reservation Bill or otherwise referred to as the Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2008, first conceptualized by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, seeks to amend the constitution to reserve seats for women in the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly of every State. It was also introduced in the Rajya Sabha in May 2008. Nine years later, the bill is once again making waves with opposition parties pushing the government to use its numbers to ensure that the bill is passed.
Despite all political parties backing the bill, concerns were raised about 'quota within the quota' for women from backward classes, Scheduled castes (SC) and scheduled tribes (ST). The bill proposes to reserve 1/3rd seats of the present strength of the Lok Sabha and state assemblies to women and most parties are backing the same. The bone of contention is however, the proposal to reserve 1/3rd seats within the seats reserved for women to those from SC and STs women candidates.
The bill, in 2009, was referred to standing committee on Law and Justice, where most political parties gave written stance on the bill. The replies nail the reason for dissent.
Where parties stand on Women's Reservation Bill
The BJP claimed that it supported the Women's Reservation Bill and assured to support its passage. The party, however, refused to back the reservation within reservation idea. This contention has given rise to speculations over an amendment that the BJP may bring while introducing the bill yet again in the parliament in the next session.
The Congress also said that it supported the bill and was willing to go along any consensus that other members of the house arrive at. The party was willing to consider any common number that the house may arrive at for quota within the quota and reduction in a number of seats reserved.
Left parties like CPI and CPI(M) backed the bill. But the CPI did not support the quota within the quota concept except in the case of SC and ST women. Both parties did not want the bull to be diluted. The CPI(M) even backed the proposal to reserve 1/3rd seats in the powerhouses of the country as well as the state.
Regional parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party, driven by Dalit agenda, remained adamant on the bill being passed only if there was reservation for women from SC and ST communities within the reservation for women in general. The RJD did not appreciate the bill in its original form. Lalu Prasad Yadav's party pushed for quota for women from OBC and minorities and the Samajwadi Party's stance was on similar lines.
RJD did not want specific constituencies to be earmarked and wanted it to be left to the parties to decide.
Nitish Kumar's JD(U) called the bill a conspiracy against the backward classes of society. They pushed for a separate share of seats for women from Backward Classes, religious minorities. JD(U) also sought 27 per cent reservation of the seats in Lok Sabha and state assemblies for OBCs before the Women's Reservation Bill is taken up. Sharad Pawar's NCP said it did not see why there was a need for reservation for backward classes within the quota.
Dravidian parties like AIADMK and DMK supported the bill too. While AIADMK asked for reserved constituencies to be rotated once every 10 years, the DMK stated that mulling over quota for OBC women within the overall women quota will only delay the bill.
While every single party supported the bill, the contention still remains over the reservation within the 1/3rd quota. While the BJP has the numbers to ensure the passage of the bill, will it get unanimous support of the house remains to be seen.