BJP: Bill, but who’s Will?
by Sandhya Jain on 16 Mar 2010 21 Comments

The Congress party’s sphinx-like supremo, who made passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha on International Women’s Day a matter of personal prestige, is not known for cogent analysis and articulation on any issue. This has not dissuaded acolytes from informing us, via a servile media, of the issues ‘close to madam’s heart’. Last time it was the disastrous Indo-US Nuclear Deal, the nuisance clauses of which are only beginning to unravel. That alone should have warned the BJP and Left parties from following Sonia Gandhi’s agenda for women’s empowerment.


But so addicted is our political class to slogans in lieu of hard thinking, that the concerned parties did not even examine the said legislation, and jumped in feet first, enforcing compliance by issuing whips after the March 8 shutdown of Parliament. Now, with murmurs of dissent rising, particularly after the disgraceful manner in which the legislation was passed on March 9 after marshals evicted obstructing members, it would be wise for BJP to rethink its commitment to the Bill.


But first, BJP leaders Ms Sushma Swaraj (Lok Sabha) and Arun Jaitley (Rajya Sabha) must answer why they agreed to pass the legislation in such a tearing hurry when marshals were used to evict members. What was BJP’s compulsion to abet Sonia Gandhi’s personal agenda?


The Women’s Bill negates one of the basic features of the constitution – the right to equality, irrespective of gender or religion, a fact further enshrined by the Supreme Court in the Keshavanand Bharti case. The Congress-led UPA-I gobbled up non-discrimination on grounds of religion by establishing an exclusive Ministry of Minority Affairs, declaring that Muslims have the first right on national resources, and setting up several schemes and institutions to cater exclusively for minorities (read Muslims).


The BJP should have rushed to the Supreme Court and had these quashed. But the leaders could not see beyond their own power and pelf, and the delusion that courting the Muslim vote would propel Mr. L.K. Advani into the prime minister’s chair; they completely betrayed the Hindu community.


BJP is now compounding its sins of omission and commission by supporting a blatantly unconstitutional legislation for political reservations on grounds of gender. Parliament has no authority to amend a basic feature of the constitution, and the legislation can be struck down by the Supreme Court. Why are political parties opening themselves to such humiliation?


Another pertinent question is the mystical figure of 33%. How was this arrived at when it is known that women must logically comprise over 50% of a nation’s demography (unless this is seriously disturbed by issues like female infanticide or foeticide)? Common sense suggests that far from empowering women, the legislation actually caps their power and representation, as it will be impossible for women to exceed 33% seats whenever they are ready to come to Parliament in larger numbers. This is not a small issue.


It will be even worse if the UPA is forced to compromise and dilute women’s reservation to say, 20%, as mooted in some quarters. This token reservation will need to be passed afresh in the Rajya Sabha, bringing us back to square one – why was the legislation moved and passed in the upper house without due debate and consultation at the national level and within political parties?  


The Women’s Reservation Bill is totally devoid of merit. Its greatest advocates are women who have risen in their respective parties by patronage, have no meaningful public contribution, and want to ensure that their parties do not sideline them. Indian citizens need competent representatives, not gender; hijras have won assembly elections because of this quest for leaders who deliver.


More pertinently, if BJP agrees to change the constitution for one group, on what grounds will it refuse extension of the reservation pie to Muslims, as envisaged by the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (Ranganath Mishra Commission)? And what if Sonia Gandhi is rushing the Women’s Bill precisely because she knows the Minority quota is impossible, and intends to use the women’s quota as a de facto Muslim Quota?


This means that once 33% quota for women is law, Congress can give tickets only to Muslim women and win say, 25% of the seats. These women will form a communal block in Parliament and the State Assemblies, and work for a Muslim agenda. Does BJP have a counter to this mischief? Once this happens, the supposed opposition of Maulana Saidur Rehman Azmi Nadvi of Nadva-tul Ulema to women’s reservation will vanish.


Actually, the sub-caste quotas demanded by Mulayam Singh and Lalu Yadav would mitigate this danger, as it would keep their Hindu votebank intact. BJP has not thought of any safeguard for the Hindu voter, having ceased to think in the Hindu interest a long time ago.


This is not to suggest that we accept sub-quotas for Dalit, OBCs or Muslim women. Quotas fragment societal unity; Indians now want a sharp reversal of the quota regime. Reservations have been found to promote mediocrity, and are now hurting even their intended beneficiaries who suffer at the hands of the creamy layer within their ranks. It has proved politically impossible to tackle the creamy layer; what will we do if women’s reservation ends up as the Muslim women’s reservation?


It is now up to the Congress to introduce the bill in the Lok Sabha and get it through. Congress is nervous as the budget has to be passed and voices of resistance have begun to be aired in the BJP. Perhaps president Nitin Gadkari is asserting himself; some say former president Rajnath Singh is instigating the revolt cum re-think. Be that as it may be, given UPA-II’s dangerous trajectory, it may be in the BJP’s best interests to use the budget session to bring down the government and throw out its divisive agenda, lock stock and barrel.


This would have the additional merit of effectively downsizing the Gandhi family and ending the well propagated myth that Rahul Gandhi is the future PM. Congress simply cannot win the present number of seats again in the event of an early election, not with the current price rise! Fresh elections will give Nitin Gadkari a chance to reassert Hindutva as BJP’s ideology and political manifesto.


The author is Editor, 

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