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More power to the women

delhi Updated: Mar 07, 2010 01:17 IST
Highlight Story

The Women’s Reservation Bill is slated to come up for consideration in Rajya Sabha on Monday. It is likely to pass into law, with support from the Congress, BJP and Left parties.

The empowerment of women was the dream of Rajiv Gandhi, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said on Saturday. She told party members she attaches the highest importance to the bill’s passage. Another woman politician, the BJP’s Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, said the bill was the dream of A B Vajpayee and L K Advani. “BJP first mooted the idea of this bill in 1995,” she said.

The issue of support to the bill has caused a rift in the Janata Dal (United) with the party’s top leaders, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and party president Sharad Yadav, going public with divergent views.

The bill, if it passes into
law, will take the number of women in the 545-member Lok Sabha from the current 59 to at least 181.

The key questions

How many Lok Sabha seats are going to be reserved for women?
Once the bill is passed, 181 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats will be reserved for women, for a period of 15 years to begin with.

Which seats will be reserved for SC and ST women?
80 LS seats are currently reserved for Scheduled Castes and 44 for Scheduled Tribes. Of these 124 seats, 41 will have to be reserved for SC/ST women. The total number of 181 seats to be reserved for women will include these 41 seats (140 general + 41 reserved).

How many unreserved seats will then be left in the Lok Sabha?
A total of 264 Lok Sabha seats will be reserved for SC/STs and women MPs, and 279 seats will remain open.

How will it be decided which seats will be reserved?
The bill is so far silent on this and many options are being considered. It could either be through
a draw of lots or seats with a comparatively higher population of women could be chosen.

Who will decide on this complex issue?
Parliament may have to make an enabling law for the implementation of the women’s reservation bill. Alternatively, the Election Commission can decide in consultation with political parties.

How will the one-third seats be selected?
One-third of seats in each state will be reserved — totalling 181. The reserved seats will rotate with every election — the idea is to have a woman MP at least once from all 543 seats in 15 years.

Which parties are supporting the bill in Parliament?
All major political parties, except the SP, JD(U) and RJD support the bill. The government has the required numbers in both Houses of Parliament — it needs the support of 162 MPs in the Rajya Sabha; it is claiming the support of 180. In the Lok Sabha, the number required is 362, which the government has on its side.