In a telling blow to the Other Backward Class (OBC) establishment, Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) leader Mr. Nitish Kumar has come out in support of the Women Reservation’s Bill to be introduced in the Rajya Sabha on Monday.
Mr. Kumar’s opinion is at odds with the stand taken by his own party president Sharad Yadav, as the latter, along with Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP) have been opposing the Bill tooth and nail in its present form.
“It is my personal opinion that the Bill ought to be passed now, especially as the issue has been dragging on for 14 years. It is not advisable to block it now,” Mr. Kumar told reporters here on Saturday.
Responding to questions on the rift that would be generated within JD (U) ranks with his opinion, Mr. Kumar said: “I will appeal to Sharadji and other party members to reconsider their stand on the issue.”
Ironically, Mr. Kumar had been at the forefront of opposition to the bill in demanding for a separate quota within the broader 33 per cent reservation plan for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and the backward sections of the Muslim community.
“I was a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee set up in 1997 to examine the bill and had submitted a note of dissent to the Geeta Mukherjee Committee. But now, I think that it is a move (pushing for the Bill) whose time has come,” said Mr. Kumar.
Although insisting that he still supported the quota-within-quota demand, Mr. Kumar said that “the demand should not be a hurdle in delaying the passage of the Bill in its present form.”
“I am still firmly of the opinion that there should ideally be a quota for OBC and Muslim women within the reservation framework for women,” he remarked.
Mr. Kumar further stated that the State’s initiative to introduce 50 per cent reservation for women in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and local bodies had resulted in considerable improvement of their lot.
Incidentally, Mr. Kumar’s acquiescence to the Bill in its present form is in keeping with his plan to appease all castes in the state, especially so after his recent spat with the JD (U)’s State President Rajiv Ranjan Singh “Lallan” and disgruntlement among the party’s upper castes who accused Mr Kumar of neglecting their interests.