there should be fair representation for women in legislatures
is unquestionable. But reservation of constituencies is
a remedy worse than the disease. Reservation by draw of
lots and rotation of seats is a disastrous recipe for representative
democracy. With one-third seats randomly reserved for woman
by draw of lots, the incumbents are forcibly unseated, resulting
in a scramble for other constituencies at the last minute.
With women's reservation, total reservations for SCs, STs
and women will be about 50%. The recent hiccups in delimitation
demonstrate how difficult it is to find a fair and acceptable
method of reserving constituencies for SCs. Permanent reservation
of the same seats for women and SCs on a large scale is
untenable, and therefore rotation of reservation becomes
necessary (except in case of ST seats). Once nearly half
the seats are reserved and rotated in every election, reserved
seats becomes unreserved and vice versa, forcing about 90%
of the incumbents to lose their constituencies! This is
unheard of in any democracy.
for Women 33.3%
(in general quota)
compulsory unseating have several undesirable consequences.
It violates the very basic principles of democratic representation.
With incentive for reelection disappearing, politics will
be even more predatory; elected women legislators cannot
build any political base as they lose their constituencies,
and male candidates unseated will put up family members
as proxies to keep the seat 'safe' for them, and indulge
in back-seat driving. The net result will be a perpetually
unstable polity, token representation for women without
real power or political base, greater demands for reservation
of constituencies for other oppressed groups, and delegitimization
of representative democracy.
there are sensible and practical ways of enhancing women's
representation. Evidence shows that voters are not discriminating
against women candidates; parties are. Whereas 10.32% of
all male candidates have been elected to Lok Sabha since
1957, 17.16% of women candidates were elected during the
same period. Among party candidates, the success rate of
men is 26.50%, while 32.53% of women candidates have been
elected. Clearly, the Indian people have no prejudice against
women legislators. In fact, the contrary is true. Given
a chance, voters are more likely to elect a woman than a
man. This evidence points to an elegant, and viable solution.
The parties have been guilty of not nominating enough women
candidates on the patently false pretext of "winnability".
If a law is made compelling political parties to nominate
women in the required number seats, on pain of losing recognition
and symbol allotment, the problem would be solved. There
are many advantages of this model. Parties will have to
nominate sufficient women candidates, but they have the
flexibility in any given constituency depending on local
political and social factors. Women can nurture constituencies
and build a political base. A large pool of credible and
serious women candidates will be in the fray, allowing real
contests. There will be no need for reservation or rotation.
Given past history, the success rate of women will be higher
than the quota of seats allotted to them by parties. Parties
can nominate women from any social segment - OBCs or minorities,
depending on local factors.
should be certain safeguards to plug possible loopholes
in this model. A party may be tempted to nominate women
in states or constituencies in which it is weak. However,
by making the unit of consideration a state for Lok Sabha,
and a cluster of three Lok Sabha constitutions for the Assembly,
parties will be compelled to nominate women in all regions
and states. No serious party seeking power can afford to
deliberately undermine its own chances of election by deliberately
nominating weak candidates.
political debates are often uninformed by best practices
elsewhere. Women's participation has increased dramatically,
to near equal or even higher participation, in Sweden, Denmark,
Finland, Germany and the Netherlands which adopted such
party-based quotas. Recently France amended its constitution
to enforce party quotas. There is no successful model of
genuine women's empowerment through reservation of constituencies.
India, given our diversity and vertical hierarchies, has
to wrestle with the issue of legitimacy of representation.
Women, scattered minorities, OBCs and other neglected sections
need genuine political space and opportunity. The real answer
lies in proportional representation with reasonable thresholds
to prevent political fragmentation. Adhocism and tokenism
beyond a point are dangerous to the health of our democracy.