Millions of Women Elected Representatives in Panchayat and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) since 1993, yet we have fewer Women in Assemblies and Parliament, while many men who were Elected in Panchayat or ULBs have made it to the Assemblies and Parliament, the Women are left far behind, making it a fit case to analyze why the women reservation is actually not empowering women politically at the Panchayat and ULB level.
Women reservation at the Panchayat and ULBs was hailed as a revolutionary step, but little did we know how reservation would be misused for the benefit of the few powerful. Male Leaders fielding female relatives as proxy candidates to hold on to power is rampant, far fewer independent women get opportunities at the Panchayat level. In the ULBs where elections are fought on Party tickets the scenario is no different, women workers in the political parties are sidelined in favor of female relatives of the male leaders who keep the power within the family as and when the reservations rotate. If women reservation was implemented with the right intent and with the spirit to create a pipeline of women leaders, more Councilors and Corporators like their male counterparts would have aspired to become MLAs and MPs.
Yes, in reality, the women reservation at Panchayat and ULBs has been misused, but does it make an argument not to pass the Women Reservation Bill, and stall the political empowerment of 50% of our population? Well, drunk driving is no reason to ban cars, and there is a need to find ways to end political power becoming a family extension of male leaders in the name of women reservation.
Even though every major political party talks about making the Women Reservation Bill a reality, and have proudly put it in their manifesto, the Bill is still gathering dust, and discourse on political empowerment of women by the political parties is mere lip service.
A deeper argument is also that political parties have few women in their decision-making bodies in the organization structure, so expecting them to give more tickets for women is a far cry. Why are political parties reluctant to field women candidates in Assembly and Parliament elections? And two common excuses are Winnability or(and) Lack of ticket seekers!
Winnability, rather non-winnability is the most common excuse given by every political party in every election, but actual data calls their bluff, on the scale of winnability women have done better than men. Also, when all men who get tickets don’t win why is the responsibility of winning is so heavily pushed as a criterion on women? Assuming even if winnability is an issue then, it’s all the more important to pass the Women Reservation Bill so that it’s the women who are contesting against each other in the women reserved constituencies.
Lack of ticket seekers, when winnability claims get questioned this becomes the next safe excuse, and certainly the most bogus argument. When political parties claim to have women wing in their organization, how can one accept the lack of ticket seekers as a legitimate claim? Debunking this claim is the huge increase in the number of independent women candidates over the last 20 years in the Assembly and Parliament elections, indicating how keen women are in fighting elections and being part of political process.
50% of the Indian population is not equally represented in the law-making process both in the State and in the Center, any argument to further delay the Bill is injustice and political exile for the women of this country. From Panchayat to Parliament women reservation has to be seamless, and unless we do not see 50% of the population represented in the Assemblies and Parliament our lawmaking process is not inclusive indeed.
Women Reservations does not mean women have to be judged differently on competency or performance nor it’s an entitlement or one more avenue to push the female relatives of a male leader. It is about providing a level playing ground for women to be part of the political spectrum and be counted as lawmakers.
Make no mistake, India needs inclusivity in its lawmaking process and today lawmaking is almost an exclusive men club in which views of 50% population of this nation are excluded.
Patriarchy has no place in new age politics, the time has come to end the political exile of the women. Parties have to demonstrate political will and empower women of this nation politically, women are no political pariahs!
(Views expressed are personal)