Strikingly, support spans gender, regional and State divisions

Even as the political class continues to be ambivalent towards the long-pending Women’s Reservation Bill, which would introduce 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and State legislative assemblies, voters have sent out a clear message they are in favour of seeing the Bill passed this year.

According to the CNN-IBN-The Hindu Election Tracker survey, 50 per cent of voters across 18 States want the next Parliament, to be elected in 2014, to have one-third women MPs.

Strikingly, the support for reservation for women spans gender, regional, and State divisions. Only 14 per cent opposed reservation, while 36 per cent of the respondents chose not to offer an opinion.

The survey, conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, was based on interviews with close to 20,000 respondents across 267 constituencies in 18 States.

Contrary to popular assumptions, 60 per cent men in urban areas, and 51 per cent rural men support reservation for women. 58 per cent urban women and 43 per cent rural women also want to see the Bill passed immediately.

A high proportion of rural women — 46 per cent — did not offer an opinion.

Political leaders from the Hindi-speaking States have often been at the forefront of opposing reservation.

But this is not the message coming in from their voters. Fifty-two per cent of the respondents in these States have supported the Bill, which is higher than the national average. Only 18 per cent opposed.

The Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010, but is awaiting approval in the Lok Sabha.

Brinda Karat, CPI(M) leader and early proponent of the Bill, told The Hindu: “This substantiates the point that only a handful of people sitting in Parliament who want to protect their seats of power are opposed to the Bill. An overwhelming number of people support it — not just because it is pro-women, but pro-democracy. The government should learn from the survey.”

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