It was indeed a historic moment when, after 14 years of struggle, one house of Parliament passed the Bill seeking to reserve 33 per cent of seats for women in Parliament and the State legislatures. Although the battle is far from over, the good beginning has given us some hope. The UPA government must acknowledge that it would not have been able to pass the bill without the support of the majority of the Opposition.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the UPA government should be commended for being instrumental in getting the Women's Reservation Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha.
The support extended to the bill by the BJP and the Left parties has proved that the Opposition can indeed play a constructive role in a democracy.
Whether or not reservation will empower women remains to be seen. But the first step shows that India's political community is becoming mature. Parties have offered a glimpse into the future when issues, rather than affinities, will determine their stand.
This will certainly send a positive message to the masses, especially the youth for whom the revival of the image of politics will hold the promise of better governance.
The opposition to the historic Women's Bill by the SP and the RJD which describe it as anti-OBC and anti-Muslim is hypocritical. If they have the interests of the OBCs and Muslim women in mind, what prevents them from fielding candidates from these sections in the elections?
No political party can ignore the claims of the OBCs and Muslims at the time of elections. What the parties should fight for is the right of legislators to speak in their mother tongue, which alone will ensure that men and women from the marginalised sections can make their point.
The rationale behind the clamour for a quota within the Women's Bill for the OBCs and Muslims is that representation is possible only by the same kind, to the least common denomination. Women can be represented only by women, men only by men, the SCs only by the SCs, SC women only by SC women, Hindu women only by Hindu women and so on.
All these years, when men occupied most of the seats in Parliament and the State legislatures, the idea of a quota within quota was not even thought of. Only when the question of reserving seats for women was raised, the argument for reservation within reservation started gaining ground.