Delhi is getting ready to elect a new Vidhan Sabha by electing 70 persons. It is time to reflect about one of the most serious problems of our present democratic system. The principle and process of representation through elections are in practice for last 7 decades. Our experience about it is asking for some urgent reforms to make it more meaningful and less pathological.
If anyone wants to identify the principle defect of our present system then it looks obvious that the Indian women are suffering with representation deficit since the introduction of the present form of parliamentary democracy in 1952. The incremental increase of their presence has not made satisfactory progress. It looks impossible in the present setting which is dominated by 4 Ms – men, money, media and mafia/ muscle power. They are getting deprived of their just share in policy making and governance due to denial of electoral opportunities. It is difficult to get selected for party ticket. If they get nominated as party candidates it becomes so challenging to achieve victory against male candidates. They are considered less winnable against men competitors. This vicious cycle has been getting reproduced in every election at the level of assembly and parliament. The effort to create spaces for women in grass root governance through 73rd and 74th amendment has generated leadership opportunities for women through reservation. It is an antidote to male and money dominated power structure. It needs further strengthening by extending the principle of preferential opportunities through reservation for women in Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha.
Otherwise the citizenship of Indian women is a neglected idea. It is most seriously reflected in their sense of powerless from household to public spaces. Violence against women is on the rise. Feminisation of poverty is a reality. These two socio-economic realities are a consequence of gender deficit in the Indian democracy. The nation is ashamed and is anxious to look for ways to address this pathology of our election based governance system.
Delhi is capital of the country. It must become the site of social awakening and political initiatives for it. There is need for all political parties to prioritise the gender issues. They should get larger share in the tickets. They should be preferred by voters at the time of vote casting. All manifestos must tell us what is going to be their strategy for gender justice in the social, economic and political spheres of our day to day life in Delhi. Of course, there has to be a time bound framework for the implementation for the recommendations of Justice J S Verma Committee which is being neglected at the cost of rights of women as citizen. The time for the action to have a gender just Delhi is now.
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About the Author
Professor, Social Activist, Founder member Aam Aadmi Party
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