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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Reservation is an insult...

As I tuned into a news telecast the other day, Sonia Gandi was making a speech.

"Mujhe Lalu Prasad Yadav ko banaana hai." (I have to fool Lalu Prasad Yadav.)

"Mujhe Dr. Karunanidhi ko banaana hai." (I have to fool Dr. Karunanidhi.)

I can very well understand that coalition politics has its own compulsions, but this seemed rather too audacious by any standards, considering that this was a speech being made in public and was sure to be reported prominently in all kinds of news media.

It was a little later, however, when the correspondent elaborated on what Mrs. Gandhi had been alluding to, that I realised that she had, in fact, been saying:

"Mujhe Lalu Prasad Yadav ko manaana hai." (I have to persuade Lalu Prasad Yadav.)

"Mujhe Dr. Karunanidhi ko manaana hai." (I have to persuade Dr. Karunanidhi.)

I suppose that means that either I am beginning to go deaf or Sonia Gandhi and Hindi do not go too well together! Anyway, that is besides the point.

Apparently, Mrs. Gandhi hopes to persuade the Congress' allies in the coalition that runs the government of India, to support a proposed bill that is meant to reserve a certain percentage of seats in parliament for women.

I think it is an insult to the women of India to imply that they can not 'secure adequate representation' in parliament unless this is done. I am sure they are as capable or incapable of making it to the Lok Sabha (the lower house) or the Rajya Sabha (the upper house) as the men are, on their own steam.

Female politicians in the country including the dour, the manipulative, the foul-mouthed, the feisty, the corrupt and ruthless, the hard working and competent, the benevolent and socially active, the erudite, the brilliant orator and the extreme right-wing and radically divisive, come in different shapes and sizes and have different temperaments, ideologies and modus operandi. So, I believe it is fair enough to say that they are as good or bad at politics as their male counterparts.

Besides, I do not see why only women can represent women and only men can represent men in parliament, as the proposed bill appears to imply.

After having sought to divide society along the lines of caste through caste-based reservations in government jobs and admissions to educational institutions (including highly technical courses) and therefore having insulted the brilliant, the hard-working and the competent among the so-called Other Backward Castes (OBCs), the political class now seek to polarise society even further by bringing in such legislation.

I really have no idea where this ever-expanding quest for 'vote-banks' is going to lead to.


Sidhusaaheb said...

I agree with your point that female politicians come in all shapes and sizes and are as good or bad as male politicians. I also agree that men can represent women and vice-versa.

But why haven’t women secured “adequate representation” so far? People bang on about women getting into parliament on “merit”. But does that mean so far there haven’t been enough meritorious women? There have been, but they aren’t “adequately represented” even in this day and age. So what does one do? Keep waiting? We already have polarisation and discrimination in place-too many men and too few women in the political process.
MumbaiGirl | Homepage | 11.09.06 – 4:33 pm | #


Well, the same politicians who go on about reserving seats in parliament for women (Sonia Gandhi, for instance) could ensure that a larger number of competent women candidates contest parliamentary (and other) elections on their party’s ticket.

That would be a good start, in my opinion.
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 11.09.06 – 4:58 pm | #


Well, I came via desipundit. I cannot DISAGREE with you more. It’s nothing to do with insulting women, but more to do with pragmatic steps to alleviate women oppression in this country. You are right that women have the capability to compete with men and become MPs in their own right. But that can happen only if the social climate in this country permits a level playing ground for women. And that you know very well is a far cry. And left upto men, that would never happen. So it only makes sense to reserve seats for women MPs, which will in turn force political parties to field women candidates. Quite simple really. Of all the reservations present in this country, I think this is the one which is sorely needed and which actually have some positive results.
dipesh | 11.10.06 – 8:56 am | #


I suppose you mean that it is going to work in the same way that reservations for ‘backward castes’ have worked for alleviating their lot over the past 60 years or so.

The only thing is that the statistics don’t seem to support that view.

Reservation in any form, for any section of society, as far as I understand from what has happened till now in the history of independent India, not only breeds and perpetuates incompetence, but also does nothing to improve the lot of a greater part of the sections of society that it is meant to help.

You are welcome to DISAGREE though!

And yes…there will be plenty among the political class looking to form newer ‘vote-banks’, who would agree whole heartedly with you…
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 11.10.06 – 10:09 am | #


Nice post. BTW, India has had a better experience with women politicians as compared to us. No?
shirazi | Homepage | 11.10.06 – 3:13 pm | #


We’ve probably had a larger number of prominent women politicians here than in Pakistan, Shirazi Sa’ab.

I can’t say it’s been a better experience though, since the most draconian regime we’ve ever had in independent India has been under a woman prime minister, when emergency was imposed in 1975-77.
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 11.10.06 – 4:51 pm | #

Sidhusaaheb said...

I don’t agree with you. It’s not about insults.

While I don’t trust Sonia Gandhi or any politician in general, women would get better representation in government that way.

The ratio of men/women is quite high and to reduce that ratio, this would be a step. I don’t necessarily agree with this bill as such or reservations but I don’t think this is meant as an insult.
Swapna | Homepage | 11.10.06 – 11:58 pm | #


You don’t agree with this bill as such or reservations and yet you think women would get better representation in government that way.

Now, is that a self-contradictory statement because you need to clear your thoughts a bit or does that imply double-standards in the sense that reservation in all other forms is not OK but this one is OK, I can’t say really.

As for the insult, if you happen to know any meritorious student from the ‘backward castes’, I suggest that you ask him/her how it feels when people assume that he/she has achieved his/her success on account of caste and not merit.
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 11.11.06 – 7:16 am | #


great post. and, yes, history tells us that forced preferential treatment leads to no long-term improvement because it is followed not from the heart or mind but only because of the law.

that the playing field is not level is a fact. it takes money to fight elections and not as many women are financially indpendent as men. yet!

the latter state will take a while to change (it’s all a vicious cuycle, anyway). but what can change is for women candidates to be given larger exposure and opportunity to reach the public through subsidizing radio/tv time for them (as one possible move).

parties who claim to be helping women through demanding such a bill could, instead, field more female candidates … something that’s in their own hands and can be done immediately (without using the likely non-passage of such a bill, or the delay in doing so, as an opportunity to win the votes through calculated false sympathy).
zakintosh | Homepage | 11.15.06 – 2:30 am | #


Another side to forced preferential treatment is that those who are assured of an outcome in their favour stop trying to deserve the position provided to them on a platter and, more importantly, the benefits are often restricted to a small group of people, leaving the majority of the intended beneficiaries high and dry.

These are the lessons to be drawn from the reservation policy followed by successive Indian governments.

Sonia Gandhi leads the single largest party and the ruling coalition in parliament. If her party and its allies were to start fielding more female candidates, the opposition parites would have to match up, in any case (for the sake of populism, if nothing else). That would, however, be the case if the intention was not, as you say, to look for an opportunity to win votes through calculated false sympaty (i.e. ‘vote-bank’ politics).

Subsidised radio/TV time does sound like a good idea indeed!
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 11.15.06 – 1:23 pm | #


I must admit, once I began reading your blogs, I couldn’t stray my eyes away from the computer monitor. I enjoyed reading what you have written so far and am excited to read your future posts.
Danna | Homepage | 11.24.06 – 7:08 am | #


Thank you so much!

I sincerely hope that I shall be able to continue writing and not disappoint you in the future.
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 11.24.06 – 8:05 am | #