The timing of the implementation of the Women’s Reservation Bill, now finally cleared through Parliament, is still a matter of conjecture, but the BJP says it is in the best possible position to furnish the 180 women candidates for the Lok Sabha and hundreds for State Assembly that will be required when the Bill does get translated on the ground.
The BJP, under whose government the Women’s Reservation Bill was finally cleared has been one of the early starters in this area and has regular training programmes for women cadre and leaders drawn from across the country.
The party began by formally announcing in 2007, when current Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was the BJP president, that it would be reserving 33% of its organisational posts, including among national office bearers, for women.
At that time this was read a move to counter the UPA government’s decision to nominate the then Rajasthan Governor, Pratibha Patil, as its candidate for the President of India. The reservations, however, were taken on board and the hunt began to fill organisational posts with women candidates and the net was cast wide.
As the hunt began for suitable candidates, it was also noticed that capacity building and training in ideological commitment, organisational tasks and administrative know how was required.
Actor, producer and former BJP national secretary Vani Tripathi was at the forefront of some of those efforts at that time. As Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) office bearer around 2006, she organised a structured programme called the “Veerangana Sammelan” specifically targeted at young women between the ages of 18-35.
“This was a structured programme to draw in this age group, an early age, to engage with the BJP and I travelled to over 18 States to drum up the support and participation,” she said while speaking to The Hindu. “In 2009, the 33% reservation for women in organisational positions was formally implemented and no other political party in India has done so up to the national level. It takes decades of work at the organisational and cadre level to come to a point where the Parliament can have women’s representation in a proactive way,” she said.
Another major resource for training was drawn from the Rambhau Mhalgi Prabhodini (RMP), a think tank considered close to the Sangh Parivar.
The RMP had, according to Indian Council for Cultural Relations chief Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, got into the scene as early as 1995, when they did a review of the first batch of women Councillors elected after the 1989 reservations in municipal bodies in Maharashtra.
“We found that the move had been done without much demand from women at that time, and therefore when elections were to be held, female relatives of men already in electoral politics filled these positions. But, interestingly, while at first these women were termed “aamdaar saubhagyavati” referred to only ea relation to their politically connected male relatives, they soon started asserting. We realised at that time, that apart from training women in leadership we need to train their male partners to provide complimentarity not domination and ego,” said Mr. Sahasrabuddhe.
Explained | On reservation for women in politics
The curriculum devised by the RMP has three aspects — motivational training, that the reservation is not a favour but a right and how to needs to add value to ones contribution, secondly, functionality of laws, and role clarity and skill on how to speak in the House, raise issues, office management etc.
“Most interestingly, however, we have added another aspect, which we did last month in the cities of Surat, Daman and Kolkata, that of holding a separate session for the male partners of leaders, that you need not overpower you partners but help them,” he said.
Even with the Women’s Reservation Bill now contingent on delimitation and a census, the BJP has made sure that it has the women candidates it needs to capture that space.