Just what the three Yadavs don’t want
All the three Yadav chieftains say reservation will only help women of the elitist groups, therefore causing further discrimination and under-representation to the poor and backward classes, reports Shekhar Iyer.Updated: Mar 08, 2010, 00:37 IST
We may not have the numbers but I will consume poison and die here as Socrates. We will not allow the passage of the Women's Reservation Bill,” 62-year-old Sharad Yadav had thundered in the Lok Sabha on June 5 last year. That was when the anti-women quota rhetoric hit the roof of Parliament.
Eight months later, when the Bill is on the verge of getting approved by one of the two Houses of Parliament, Yadav’s rhetoric might not be so dramatic.
Yet the opposition from among the backward class leaders like him to earmark one-third of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women has not whittled down — though cracks may be beginning to surface.
Yadav, a prominent face of the pro-Mandal drive to bring reservation for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs ), with Mulayam Singh Yadav (70) of Samajwadi Party and Lalu Yadav (62) of Rashtriya Janata Dal, remain the strongest opponents to the Bill.
All the three Yadav chieftains say reservation will only help women of the elitist groups, therefore causing further discrimination and under-representation to the poor and backward classes.
They contend that women of all castes were not allowed to emerge as leaders historically. So the principle of reservation could legitimately be invoked to address gender inequality in India. But the pre-condition should be that caste inequality within women folk should be addressed simultaneously.
Their critics, however, say their opposition springs from their fear that many of their male leaders would not get a chance to fight elections if 33.3 per cent seats are reserved for women.
Also, their parties are male-dominated and function in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where muscle and money power combine to make electoral success. Finding women candidates of calibre to fight through the din and dust of an aggressive election is a hard task.
Responding to the critics, Mulayam is even candid enough to say, “the Bill is dangerous for the leadership of Lok Sabha ... It is a conspiracy...It would finish the leadership.”
“The country’s president is a woman, Lok Sabha Speaker is a woman, Congress president and UPA chairperson is also a woman and they have not come through the women’s quota,” says Lalu
On the other hand, Mayawati, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and supremo of the Bahujan Samaj Party, hasn’t revealed her card yet. But, when the Bill was introduced in 2008, she had issued a statement calling for separate quota for women belonging to SC/ST and OBC categories.
The Yadav leaders know that the government can not push the Bill so easily. It is a constitutional amendment Bill, a stringent procedure will have to be followed. “At the most what you can do is to throw us out (of the House) and cancel our membership”, says Mulayam, hinting that those opposed to the measure in its present form will not allow it passed without amendments.
Lalu Prasad says, “We will oppose it... yudh hoga (there will be war on the issue). Mahila bill hatao; desh ko bachhao (withdraw women’s Bill and save the country).”
But breaking OBC ranks, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has come out in support of the Bill, blowing a hole in their resistance to the historic move.