Monday, March 15, 2010

Good Intentions cannot justify bad delivery
By M J Akbar

Enthusiasm is no substitute for clarity. The flaws in the Women’s Reservation Bill are not in the laudable intention but in the clogged delivery. The desire to be politically correct has overtaken the imperative to be politically sensible. Method and order, the favourite weapons of Hercule Poirot, might be usefully employed in analysis.

Why do women need reservation? Taken purely as a demographic identity, they constitute the most powerful force in electoral politics. Every second voter is a woman. If she were motivated purely by gender, the majority of MPs would already be women. Theory, alas, tends to have a cool, or even antagonistic, relationship with real life.

The basis on which a candidate is chosen, by any party, can be described in a single, if ungainly, word: winnability. The two most powerful women politicians in the country are in charge of Congress in Delhi; both, Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Mrs Sheila Dikshit, are also known for their secularism. They chose only one woman candidate out of seven, and not a single Muslim. Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar were offered as nominees, but their names were withdrawn when their “winnability” became doubtful. This is how politics is conducted. This is why the idea of women’s reservation gained momentum, because the “winnability” factor is neutralized when all legitimate candidates are women.

But women do not constitute a homogenous group, and all women are not equal. Just as men have the advantage over women in what should be a gender-neutral election to the Lok Sabha, some women have an in-built advantage over others, owing to caste or faith, or socio-economic factors. The logic that provides reservations for women also sustains the argument for sub-reservations. The principle is the same.

Empowerment must be the right of all women, not just some women. The argument that parties can always select candidates from a particular caste or faith, rather than do so under legal compulsion, does not hold. In the last six decades, no one has prevented the Congress or BJP from filling half their list with women, but they have not done so. Without sub-reservations, distributive justice will be trumped by “winnability” in women’s seats. Since this is a Constitutional amendment, rather than a simple Bill, provisions can be introduced to protect the legislation from being struck down in court.

A second structural flaw could further erode the already ebbing credibility of our parliamentary system.

The life-blood of our democracy is a covenant, a pact between elector and elected that the quid pro quo for the vote is service to the constituency. The quality of that service is an important (but not the only) factor in an MP’s re-election. This is the one big check that keeps a MP on some sort of practical leash.

The 108th Amendment envisages a rotational method of reservation that would make two-thirds of the Lok Sabha, or about 360 members, one-term MPs: 181 that will get reserved in an election, and the 181 male seats that will get reserved for women in the following election. Both categories, therefore, become one-term MPs. A woman MP can, of course, seek re-election by remaining in what will become a non-reserved seat, but that will be a rare exception.

Two-thirds of the Lok Sabha, therefore, will have no political incentive to serve its constituents. This, given prevailing levels of public morality, is a license to satisfy personal interests for the length of the term to MP and minister. The cynical response is that this hardly matters since MPs have become irrelevant to national development or even to their constituency’s welfare. If that is the level of degeneration, then we should abandon first-past-the-post parliamentary democracy and find another definition of democracy. Perhaps we can adopt a dual system in which two-thirds of MPs are elected on the basis of lists prepared by the party leaders, enabling them to send their chosen favourites to the House in direct proportion to the percentage of votes they have received.

The relationship between MP and voter can, thereby, be officially abandoned. This should make party bosses delirious.

The irony is that such flaws can be easily corrected, with some time and thought. Both have been absent from the process. The pro-reservation lobbies have employed hustle topped off by self-congratulation; those opposed think that explosions constitute an argument.

The former worked through cheerleaders in the media; the latter played to galleries beyond the media, and did so effectively. The Congress began to waver when the message from the second horizon began to permeate back to Delhi. The government was indifferent to the threat from political parties, but it could not remain immune to a threat from the voter. Empowerment of women is powerful and necessary objective, but the route map should be navigated with care.

Appeared in The Times of India - March 14, 2010


R.Alamsha Karnan said...

Time for Indo-Pak dual citizenship: 1/2

Why Hijrath appeal will work?:

"250 million Muslims have lost faith in the constitution. Modi+Brahmins will kill Muslims. Appeal for Hijrath to 55 OIC Islamic nations".

If i become the next Indian PM, i will issue multiple citizenship for all Indians, Hindu or Muslim, to live and work in any of the 55 Islamic republics, including Pakistan.

For a concept to receive overwhelming public support, it has to pass through the following critical tests.

1.Does it adress a common crisis?

2. Does it try to resolve the crisis?

3. Is it inevitable?

4. Does it identify a common evil and unite the masses?

5. Will it have a positive regional impact?

6. Does the religion approve it?
Will people loose their Indian roots?

7. Is it possible for even a penniless pauper to participate?

Does it adress a common crisis?:

India is facing a overpopulation nightmare with it's 1.2 billion growing at the rate of 30 million/year. Millions of educated/skilled/unskilled manpower is jobless and they are ready to leave India for jobs in Gulf/US or to survive anywhere.

Does it try to resolve the crisis?:

If we don't create an opportunity for 50% of our population to leave India within next 25 yrs, the ship will sink.

Hijrath appeal of 250 million Muslims will open the door in 55 OIC Islmaic nations to absorb our excess manpower. Muslim world loves india and most of them have huge lands and resources but very thin population and skilled manpower.

Moreover, the Muslim world is under direct threat of US/Israel invasion. The only way to protect their lands and resources is to allow migration.

Is it inevitable?:

YES. Population grows, lands and resources shrink. Population dispersion is inevitable for India to survive.

Does it identify a common evil and unite the masses?:

Blaming Brahmins+Modi and appealing for Hijrath will unite Muslims+Dalits(Ambedkar)+Dravidans(Periyar)+Christians(Kandhamal). All are victims of Brahmins, Hindutva fanatics and the mass murderer Modi. This is easily 65% of the populaiton vs 4% Brahmins.

In fact, this will be a political master stroke for Muslims to launch a powerful non-Brahminic political platform and unite all the anti-Brahminic forces under one common agenda.

This will culminate into a Muslim/Dalit Prime Minister of India.

R.Alamsha Karnan said...

Time for Indo-Pak dual citizenship: 2/2

Will it have a positive regional impact?:

Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghan are directly affected by Brahminic hate Mulsim mindset. The entire SAARC region has become allergic to Brahmins and has aligned with China. Pakistan is the frontline state of China. Accusing Brahmins and appealing for Hijrath will generate tremendous regioal support especially from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghan.

Hijrath appeal is Islamic and will project India as a leader for the Muslim world. This brings new hopes and hence will take away the anti-India mindset of JIhadis and Talibans. In fact, Jihadis and talibans will develop love for Indians and will become protectors of Indians and India.

Does the religion approve it?:

Quran says "If you can NOT practice Islam and live as Muslims out of fear and threat, migrate to Darul-Islam (land of Muslims).

Not a single Islamic nation can reject the appeal per se else the entire world will scream Quran is fake. Nations which can NOT absorb migrants will atleast give their support for the migration process.

Will people loose their Indian roots?:

No. The political structure will be commanded by Muslims and we will issue Multiple citizenship for all Indians living in any Islamic republic, including Pakistan.

Nobody, Hindu or Muslim, will loose their Indian citizenship and 100% political rights are guaranteed by default.

Now ask any Indian. I will win a landslide victory. Even you will support me. Ain't you?

Is it possible for even a penniless pauper to participate?:

YES. Hijrath appeal is just a request for migration. It's NOT by force. Pure Ahimsa. Whoever likes will invite and whoever likes will migrate. We are the largest migrants to US/UK/Europe etc for economic reasons. Hijrath appeal is NOT anti-national or anti-India. In fact, the only product we can export is INDIAN and our economy depends on the foreign exchange remitted.

Every Muslims, rich or poor, can participate in the appeal and continue with his daily business as usual. It costs NOTHING. The entire nation will support it.

Tell me ONE reason, why you will NOT support Hijrath appeal in the national interest?.

manjul said...

Just a matter of understanding what it's about and how to help others to find what's right for them.