It is an irony of Indian politics that Mulayam Singh Yadav, the man who was widely held responsible for holding up the Women'sReservation Bill in Parliament for almost a decade, has now come up with the most practical solution. This is not because the UP Chief Minister has suddenly become a votary of the women'squota bill. But he wants to further mandalise and communalise the polity.
It is unlikely that the UPA will agree to the Gill formula, in which the onus of ensuring 33 per cent reservation for women would be on political parties. The former Election Commissioner MS Gill had suggested women'squota within the political party system at the ticket distribution stage. All that the Gill formula needs is a small modification in the Representation of People'sAct. And this will not need a constitutional amendment.
The UPA plan of increasing the strength of Parliament by 33 per cent to accommodate women'sreservation will need an amendment. The matter had become so messy with so many claims to reservations within reservation. It is not clear from where the UPA arrived at the ?two to a constituency formula?, which will steeply increase the number of seats in Parliament and legislative assemblies by another 33 per cent. This will be too unwieldy a number even in Parliament. It is doubtful if the present Lok Sbaha and Rajya Sabha have sufficient space to even accommodate so many members.
And what about the economics of this politics? The nation will be feeding a large army of politicians, at a time when the whole emphasis is on downsizing the government. The additional numbers will be added up to the Panchayat level with all the attendant perks and privileges. Accordingly, in states and the Centre the number of ministers will go up. Most state treasuries are empty. Has the UPA tried to ponder over the additional burden the newly added legislators and ministers will impose on the bankrupt exchequer? It is logical to limit the 33 per cent within the existing numbers.
Added to this is the demand for reservations within reservation to satisfy caste and religious groups. It is surprising that even a senior BJP leader has been lobbying for such reservations. Empowering women should not be treated as a mockery of Indian democracy. Women empowerment should be a panacea for social cohesion. At least they should be allowed to think above caste, communal considerations, for, they groom the future of India. Indian women have the strength to rise above caste and religious ghettoism. By reserving seats on caste and communal lines, women instead of getting empowered will again get gagged by male-dominated vested gangs of vote brokers.
At least the Gill formula to a large extent will take care of these economic and social concerns limiting it within the party system.
Janata Dal (U) leader Nitish Kumar is the rising star of Indian political establishment. He is becoming popular by the day in Bihar. His charm, his capacity to dissociate from the BJP on every major issue have become his USP with the chatteriti class.
It'sobvious that the JD(U) leader is in a hurry to create his own brand equity. And the BJP afflicted by a typical passion for self-destruction is too eager to abdicate its position in state after state.
The latest from Nitish is his brand new theory on Indian caste system. According to his wisdom, changing one'sreligion does not change one'scaste. It is a wholly new interpretation, which if accepted will strike at the very foundations of social equity for which he is supposedly fighting. Christianity and Islam are known to be egalitarian and casteless in their faith. The rationale for conversion is allegedly the evil of social and caste discrimination in Hindu society. And even reservation, to begin with, was an atonement of the Hindu society for the practice of caste system over centuries. By converting, it is claimed, one is liberated from the clutches of this discrimination. The liberating theologies cannot push their laity back into the morass of caste system, simply either to satisfy Nitish or to corner undue economic benefits. In that case, caste cannot, only economics should be the basis of reservation. But Nitish, perhaps to sound doubly different from the BJP, feels very strongly that despite conversion Muslims and Christians faced acute discrimination and should be accorded the same benefits as other dalits. Then why convert at all?
Nitish Kumar like Chandrababu Naidu earlier, always wants to be seen ideologically closer to the political class he is fighting. In the process, he wants to be equally acceptable to both sides even as he benefits from the political clout of the BJP and its dedicated cadre. There was a time, like in Andhra, when the BJP was a growing force in Bihar. The compulsion of coalition politics is not only shrinking its mass base, but also its ideological space.