Date: 11 Mar 2010


pioneer on line 11 Mar 10 ////////////// The Pioneer Edit Desk ///////// Quota within quota is unacceptable/////////// Having been passed by the Rajya Sabha in what many have termed as a historic vote, the women’s reservation Bill is in danger of being turned into a tool for furthering the interests of certain political constituencies. The opposition to the Bill is essentially from three quarters: First, theorists who question the legitimacy of reserved constituencies amounting to almost separate electorates which they say fly in the face of the basic tenet of democracy: Freedom of choice. Second, practitioners of Mandal politics who are demanding a separate OBC quota within the envisaged 33 per cent reservation for women. And, third, politicians who are demanding a Muslim sub-quota within the proposed percentage of reserved seats in the legislatures. All three opposing forces hold little water and much less rationale to back up their claims. At a theoretical level, reserved seats might appear to be antithetical to the essence of democratic governance, but it must be borne in mind that the greatest strength of democracy is its ability to be sensitive to ground realities. Thus, to say that all affirmative action policies are undemocratic would be far too absolute. It is welcome that the vast majority of the country’s political leadership has acknowledged the women’s reservation Bill as an important mechanism by which the women of this country can be politically and socially empowered. //////////// But the logic that politicians such as RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and SP strongman Mulayam Singh Yadav have put forward to demand a sub-quota for OBCs and Muslims within the 33 per cent reservation deserves harsher treatment. These are people whose politics is solely based on cultivating dedicated vote-banks which they fear will be eroded once the Bill becomes law. It is no secret that the Yadav chieftains have made their political careers on the strength of the Yadav-Muslim vote-bank. Now, with their political fortunes waning, they find themselves staring at a legislation that could very well sound the death knell for their brand of identity politics. Thus, they are trying to browbeat the proponents of the Women’s Reservation Bill — which has seen parties such as the BJP and the CPI(M) rise above narrow politics to back the Government on an important issue — into conceding their demand of a quota within the proposed quota. The demand for reserved OBC seats is absurd. The Constitution provides for reserved constituencies for depressed classes, namely Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, which Parliament in its wisdom has seen fit to extend from time to time. The demand for an OBC quota is nothing but the rant of opportunistic politicians who can least claim to have contributed to the welfare of this country. //////////// As far as the suggestion of a Muslim quota is concerned, nothing could be more sinister and divisive. The idea of having separate reserved communal constituencies goes against the very concept of India. The Preamble to the Constitution reads “We the people of India…” and not ‘We the Hindus, the Sikhs, the Muslims…’. It is from this ideal of unity in diversity that we obtain our system of democratic governance wherein each MP or MLA represents the interests of his or her constituency as a whole, irrespective of whether everyone in that constituency voted in his or her favour. The demand for a Muslim quota is a throwback to the infamous Morley-Minto ‘reforms’ for which the people of this land have already paid a terrible price. It deserves not only to be ignored but strongly rejected and repudiated. ////// 000000000