The BJP is trying to woo women voters with an eye on the next general election by promising a 50% quota in urban local bodies and panchayats as it looks to get the women’s reservation bill cleared by Parliament, said sources.
While many states have already reserved half the seats for women in these elected bodies, the NDA has revived two proposals of the previous UPA regime to make it mandatory across the country.
The panchayati raj and urban development ministries under the UPA had moved two separate proposals over the legislation but they failed to go through.
Now the urban development ministry has prepared a cabinet note that has been circulated for inter-ministerial consultations.
“As the nature of the bills is the same, the law ministry has recently advised us that we should go for one bill with two amendments,” an urban development ministry official said.
The Narendra Modi government last week announced 33% reservation for women in the police forces of all union territories and several new initiatives are expected in the coming months to reach out to women voters, sources said.
The BJP is trying to expand its electoral base after winning last year’s general election on the back of a surge in popularity among the youth and first-time voters following its promises to push for broad reforms and create jobs.
“Women will play a crucial role in the next election. It is a vote bank that is largely not influenced much by caste or other considerations,” a cabinet minister said.
The female voter turnout in the last Lok Sabha election was 65.63%, one of the highest ever and more than a 10% increase over the 2009 number. The next step, said sources, would be to pass the women’s reservation bill providing for quotas in Parliament and the assemblies, though the timing would be decided later.
In 1994, the BJP became the first political party to adopt a formal resolution in support of 33% reservation for women in Parliament and state assemblies. After it assumed office four years later, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government introduced a constitutional amendment bill in Parliament to fulfill this demand but failed to get it cleared in two separate attempts.
The UPA government got the women’s reservation bill cleared by the Rajya Sabha, but the proposed legislation will have to be ratified by the upper house again while some regional parties continue to resist it.