In a political move that is likely to put ally Congress on the backfoot, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has decided to push for 50% reservation for women in local self-government before the elections next year.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar had first introduced reservation for women in politics (33%) during his tenure as Maharashtra chief minister in early 1990s. He has now asked his party’s rural development minister Jayant Patil and deputy chief minister and nephew Ajit Pawar to speak to Prithviraj Chavan to increase the existing reservation.
The move is with an eye on upcoming zilla parishad and municipal corporation elections next year.
However, the Congress is finding itself in a ‘no-win’ situation. If it agrees to increase the reservation to 50%, the credit would go to the NCP. If it doesn’t, the party will be labelled as anti-women empowerment.
“We are committed to 50% reservation for women in local self-government institutions. And we hope that this can be done before the elections next year,” said Patil.
After it gets cabinet approval, the state would have to enact a legislation to increase the reservation of women. It is unlikely to happen unless there is serious political will for the same.
Congress party leaders denied that the move had put it in a spot. “From the beginning, the Congress has been proactive about women’s reservation in politics. It was former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi who first mooted the idea,” said Congress spokesperson Hussain Dalwai.
Dalwai said the party would support the proposal, but it would depend on the government how and when to implement it.
“There might be some difficulties in implementing it immediately before polls,” he said.