Lok Satta Junction

For better governance in India.

Proposed changes in women’s Reservations Bill

with 7 comments

Source: Loksatta news

Welcoming the UPA Government move to introduce a Bill in Parliament to provide for reservations to women in legislative bodies, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan today suggested that the flaws in the Bill be removed if it were to be meaningful.

Talking to the media, Dr. JP pointed out that the Bill proposes reservation of one-third seats for women and the rotation of such reserved seats once in every general election.  As a result, two-thirds of incumbents will be forcibly unseated in every general election. When male incumbents are forced out, they field their womenfolk as proxies and hinder development of natural leadership.

“Such compulsory unseating violates the very principle of democratic representation and jeopardizes the possibility of any legislator choosing a constituency and nursing it. When legislators do not have the incentive to seek re-election from the same constituency, politics will become more predatory and unaccountable.  The Bill in its present form is silent about women’s representation in the Rajya Sabha and Legislative Councils. In addition, the Bill warrants a constitutional amendment.”

Studying all these, the Lok Satta had as early as 1998 presented an alternative for consideration by all political parties.  It calls for an amendment to the Representation of the People Act making it mandatory for every recognized political party to field women candidates in one-third of constituencies. To prevent a party from nominating women candidates only in States or constituencies where the party’s chances of winning are weak, the Bill proposes that each party should consider the State as a unit for fielding women candidates in elections to the Lok Sabha.  In other words, a party has to field one-third of women candidates in every State.  A party’s failure to field the requisite number of women entails a penalty.  For the shortfall of every woman candidate, the party cannot field male candidates in two constituencies.

The Lok Satta Bill proposes that for reservation of seats for women in a State Assembly, the unit shall be a cluster of three contiguous Lok Sabha constituencies. The Election Commission had endorsed the Lok Satta Bill, Dr. JP said.

Dr, JP said that the Constitution and the Representation of the People Act should be amended to provide for reservation of one-third of seats to women in the Rajya Sabha and Legislative Councils.

Dr. JP pointed out that political parties denied party ticket to women claiming their chances of winning an election were remote. Results in election after election have demonstrated that voters have no prejudice against women.

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Written by jujung

March 13, 2010 at 8:17 AM

7 Responses

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  1. //It calls for an amendment to the Representation of the People Act making it mandatory for every recognized political party to field women candidates in one-third of constituencies.//

    Each party may decide different constituencies to field women, thus we will not be assured of 1/3 representation in the parliament.

    dagalti

    March 24, 2010 at 2:47 AM

    • But we will be assured that (at the minimum) 1/3 of all contestants are women. The aim is to provide equitable opportunities to get elected, irrespective of the gender. It is ultimately people’s right to choose their representative. This way, strong women leaders emerge as opposed to just puppets for the temporary rotating constituencies (as in the present bill).
      There are enough safeguards in the Loksatta’s bill to prevent parties nominating women candidates only in their weak constituencies.

      jujung

      March 24, 2010 at 6:26 AM

  2. jujung, I see what the Loksatta bill is trying to get. However I feel, what it is aimed at fixing is not that big a flaw.

    We will start off with puppets no matter what. Most of the female contestants now (even w/o reservation) are puppets. Not all, most. I’m from TN. With the exception of the Communist parties almost every single female candidate – right down to Municipal body elections – is a d/o or w/o of someone in that political party.

    It is inevitable that we start with puppets.It is through an increased exposure that we can expect female politicians who will hold their own and set the stage for more to come. For this to happen it would be better to have more assured seats in the legislature/parliament.

    The problems with rotation unseating incumbents forcibly does exist (admittedly on a smaller scale) in constituencies reserved for SC/ST candidates now. We must try and understand if lack of motivation due to inability to contest again (as we theoretically expect) is a deterrent for these representatives.
    I am not sure that is the case. Simply because, unlike local body elections, local area development is only one of the issues in Assembly/Parliament elections – not even the most important one.

    It is reasonable to believe that performing women will be fielded again regardless of reservation. So we should be worried about performing men who are denied the opportunity to contest again because of the Bill. I admit I don’t have an answer.

    Perhaps this is something the parties should be able to decide on a case-by-case basis and field the said performer in a constituency where his earlier performance will still have some mileage (adjoining constituencies, for instance).

    btw we should see how the reservation functions in the local body elections. There we already have reservations for women and individual performance on local issues is a greater influence on re-election probability.

    dagalti

    March 24, 2010 at 7:41 AM

    • The whole problem with the current bill is that it doesn’t recognize/value “leadership” abilities. Leaders emerge through nurturing and cultivating constituencies. If the constituencies are routinely changed through rotation, there is no scope for such leaders to emerge. The candidates amass as much wealth as possible before the constituency is taken away in rotation. There are no incentives for long term planning. And I don’t think this is a minor problem. In such a scenario, the only “leaders” will be the super rich guys or the dynastic variety.

      Anyways, I agree some bill aiming for equitable representation is better than no bill at all.

      jujung

      March 24, 2010 at 8:48 PM

  3. //Leaders emerge through nurturing and cultivating constituencies.// More true for local body polls than assembly, parliament elections. People decide based on the party to place in power than who got their garbage problem addressed. I am not saying local issues do not matter but they are NOT the most dominant issues in these elections.Which is why I said constituency rotation is a ‘minor problem’. I did not imply that ‘not rewarding leadership’ is a minor problem.

    Some studies on relection patterns in local body polls where seats for women are reserved and rotated would be insightful.
    Similarly recandidature/relection patterns in LS polls of reserved SC/ST candidates will also be insightful.

    dagalti

    March 25, 2010 at 3:41 AM

    • “A study by Ministry of Panchayati Raj recommended that rotation of constituencies should be discontinued at the panchayat level because almost 85% women were first-timers and only 15% women could get re-elected because the seats they were elected from were de-reserved.”

      [http://www.indiatogether.org/2008/nov/law-women.htm]

      jujung

      March 25, 2010 at 5:26 AM

  4. Thank You jujujng.

    dagalti

    March 26, 2010 at 12:05 PM


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