Union feminister of agriculture Sharad Pawar is a man who stands up for women. While everyone else is thinking of piddly percentages about how many seats should be reserved for women, Mr Pawar is chivalrous enough to put his Walter Raleigh cloak where his mouth is. He wants half of Lok Sabha and half of Rajya Sabha seats, not to mention half of assembly seats in every state, to be reserved for women. But if his chivalry is confined to pulling out chairs to make the ladies sit — rather than volunteering to hold up the lot who hold up half the sky — we would be much more pleased.
Speaking at a rally of the NCP’s women workers in suburban Mumbai — aah, now it makes more sense — the father of a woman named Supriya Sule announced that “empowering women leads to a more inclusive growth of society and the nation”. Now, who could argue with that? Considering that Mr Pawar’s state, Maharashtra, already has 33% reservations for women in government jobs from 1994, the only way was upwards, percentage-wise. Even if 50% seats in the to-be-held Maharashtra local body elections — including that of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corp-oration (BMC) — was not the immediate catalyst for Mr Pawar to turn suffragette, we would have suspected that he’s made a suggestion that nobody in his or her right mind can disapprove.
And that’s the problem with reservations per se. To oppose it would be politically dangerous. Catch anyone, including any of the ‘Bharat Mata’ Thackerays opposing the block-booking for women. That would lump them in some Taliban-ish territory. But for us, it seems like a zany idea: come hail or shine or the woman candidate in question, to reserve a seat simply because of gender difference is tantamount to votebank politics.
Our request to Mr Pawar: open the door for the ladies and make the much more pointed gesture of giving up your own seat of the presidency of the International Cricket Council (ICC) to a woman. Those would be laudable gestures that would certainly show that India, never mind Mr Pawar, has come a long way, baby.