Friday, June 5, 2009

Let parties field women in one-third seats: Lok Satta’s alternative

The Lok Satta Party today wholeheartedly welcomed the UPA Government move to provide for reservations to women in legislative bodies as part of its 100-day program.

Addressing a media conference, party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan recalled that that a Bill to provide for women’s reservations had been introduced many times in the last 13 years but had not been passed apparently because most parties were not serious about it.

Dr. JP pointed out that the Bill as it is conceived is seriously flawed. The Bill proposes reservation of one-third seats for women and the rotation of such reserved seats once in every general election. As a result, two-thirds of incumbents will be forcibly unseated in every general election. When male incumbents are forced out, they field their womenfolk as proxies and hinder development of natural leadership. “Such compulsory unseating violates the very principles of democratic representation and jeopardizes the possibility of any legislator choosing a constituency and nursing it. When legislators do not have the incentive to seek re-election from the same constituency, politics will become more predatory and unaccountable. The Bill in its present form is silent about women’s representation in the Rajya Sabha and the Legislative Councils. In addition, the Bill warrants a constitutional amendment.”

Studying all these, the Lok Satta had as early as 1999 presented an alternative for consideration by all political parties. It calls for an amendment to the Representation of the People Act making it mandatory for every recognized political party to field women candidates in one-third of constituencies. To prevent a party from nominating women candidates only in States or constituencies where the party’s chances of winning are weak, the Lok Satta proposes that each party should consider the State as a unit for fielding women candidates in elections to the Lok Sabha. In other words, a party has to field one-third of women candidates in every State. A party’s failure to field the requisite number of women entails a penalty. For the shortfall of every woman candidate, the party cannot field male candidates in two constituencies.

The Lok Satta Bill proposes that for reservation of seats for women in a State Assembly, the unit shall be a cluster of three contiguous Lok Sabha constituencies.

Dr, JP said that the Constitution and the Representation of the People Act should be amended to provide for reservation of one-third of seats to women in the Rajya Sabha and the Legislative Councils.

The Election Commission had endorsed the Lok Satta Bill, Dr. JP said.

Dr. JP appealed to all political parties to adopt the Lok Satta’s hassle-free and flawless proposal, and ensure adequate representation to women in legislatures.

Smt. N. Saroja devi, convenor of Mahila Satta, Party spokespersons Katari Srinivasa Rao and V. Vijayendar Reddy were also participated in the press meet.

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