The Women’s Reservation Bill has been in conversation throughout the four years of the ruling party coming to power. While it was in the Bhartiya Janta Party’s election manifesto, there has been no work done towards making the bill a reality. But women have started demanding what they rightfully deserve. With the Madhya Pradesh assembly election scheduled for later this year, the president of the MP Mahila Morcha, Lata Elker has asked for 25% tickets for women in the election as against 12% of the total candidates fielded by the party in the 2013 MP elections.

“We want 56 tickets for women in the 230-member assembly seats, keeping in mind their role in strengthening the party at the grass-root level. Apart from strong political background to qualify for tickets we are aware that women can be better performers if given a chance to represent their area,” Elker told the TOI.

WHY RESERVATION?

Now that women have started coming across from the ground level to demand more representation and opportunities from ruling parties, it is high time for the Members of Parliament sitting in the lower house to pass the bill as the upper house already passed it in 2010. The Centre for Social Research chief Ranjana Kumari talked about the representation of women in politics to SheThePeople.TVKumari is involved in the struggle to have 33% reservation for women in the parliament.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Women demanding more seats but Women’s Reservation Bill yet to be passed.
  • Female cabinet ministers are only ornamental representation not real representation.
  • Power-sharing with women representatives will help India a great deal.
  • Parties need to give women members more tickets as they are the ones who promote the parties at ground-level

“It is a very important call at the moment because women are missing on representation for almost 72 years now. This government promised to pass the bill and the fact that they are not passing the bill becomes a responsibility of the political parties to deliver because they are all committed to it. So why is it that they say they support the bill but when it comes to giving tickets to women to contest elections, they don’t want to relent? This means that somewhere there is no intention or political will to share power with women,” she said.

Kumari raises some extremely pertinent questions, however how is it that reservation would help women to get into politics? Nishtha Satyam, Deputy Country Representative of UN Women says, “Of course numbers help in solidifying women’s identity in politics. And today, so many states like Andhra Pradesh have mandated for 50% women in politics which is fabulous. Reservation helps in getting women in politics who when we speak to tell us that the only reason they were able to step in is because of the reservation otherwise they wouldn’t even be able to break that glass ceiling. Reservation policy is an absolute fundamental for women to enter politics.”

POLITICAL AGENDA?

The reservation bill has always been a topic of interest for political parties. They always bring up the discussion especially when they are in the opposition party. So has it become a political agenda to talk about women’s representation in politics only for personal gains in politics? “Women as a vote bank are important criteria. Parties often talk about it during election time but if one was to be serious about it than one would have seen that change by now. It is very surprising that women’s reservation bill wasn’t a topic in the recent meeting in the parliament. Very recently Rahul Gandhi brought it up again too,” said Satyam.

Kumari, on the other hand, asks, “What is stopping Rahul Gandhi from giving 33% tickets after he made a clear statement supporting the bill? BJP has been talking about it for five years but at least Congress should show some courage to say that they mean what they say. Because so many women get exploited in terms of becoming politically active, working for years and at the end of it they get nothing.”

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ORNAMENTAL REPRESENTATION

Talking about women cabinet ministers taking charge of critical positions like External Affairs Ministry, Defence Ministry etc but then failing to cater larger representation, Kumari referred to PM Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech where he said that the central government has more women in the cabinet. She said, “He hasn’t done any obligation to women by putting more women. These are competent women who are handling different posts. So he said as if he is giving some kind of patronage and talking like a true patriarch. Sushma Swaraj is much more experienced in politics than Modi himself. Nirmala Sitharaman has handled media for years and is a JNU graduate. Actual representation would be to share the real power with women by giving them equal representation in parliament.”

“Ornamental representation does not speak about real representation – Ranjana Kumari

50% REPRESENTATION IN BJP CADRE

Talking about women in politics and their participation, BJP spokesperson Teena Sharma claimed, “In our organisation, we follow 50% women rule very strictly. And recently in the MCD election in New Delhi BJP gave 50% ticket to women plus two more general seats to women. So we gave 50% of 272 seats in MCD Delhi election to women so this is how BJP is keeping a track of women to grow in the ground level, in the organisation.”

WHY WOMEN WILL HELP?

Working within the capital, she says that she only saw two women fighting for MLA seat and the maximum is three women fighting in the last 3-4 years. So out of 70 MLA if you only make three women fighting for it then other women don’t have a career in politics, said Sharma.

What is stopping Rahul Gandhi from giving 33% tickets after he made a clear statement supporting the bill? BJP has been talking about it for five years but at least Congress should show some courage to say that they mean what they say.

WOMEN FINDING EQUAL SPACE IN POLITICS

On why women don’t find equal space in politics, Teena said, “No sitting men would leave his seat for a woman. We definitely need more and more women in the parliament. The country is growing and it needs more women in politics. We are constantly ignoring issues like girl child foeticide, women’s issues, child brides, etc. to tackle these issues on the ground having more women in representative chairs would actually help.”

#WomenAndTheVote
#WomenAndTheVote

Satyam adds to it and says, “Politics is a bedrock of power. It is a difficult power distribution. Women don’t come into power because elections require a lot of money and most women lack resources at their disposal.”

While today most women are actually up for taking charge of influential positions in politics and we as a country are in dire need of it. The responsibility now hangs on to those who are elected to power to set the numbers straight and welcome women to fight not just for women but for all genders in India.

Feature Image Credit: Indian Express

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