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Congress, BJP attitude on women's quota Bill draws flak

By Our Staff Reporter

BANGALORE, MARCH 8. The passage of the long pending Women's Reservation Bill, which envisages 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament, "will remain an utopia" unless political parties such as the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) exercise political will to include caste-based "internal reservations" within that percentage, the President of the State unit of the Janata Dal (Secular), Siddaramaiah, has said.

He was speaking after inaugurating a symposium on "Political culture and women," organised by the women's wing of the Bangalore city unit of the party here on Monday.

Clarifying that neither he nor his party was against women and their socio-political rights, Mr. Siddaramaiah claimed that it was the H.D. Deve Gowda Government at the Centre in 1996 that was responsible for promoting women's cause in national politics.

The Congress, the `cadre-based" Communist parties, and the "disciplined" BJP could do no justice to the Bill as they themselves were not inclined to entertain "internal reservations" for "selfish reasons."

Both the Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee, and the All-India Congress Committee (AICC) President, Sonia Gandhi, had been indulging in "blame game" whenever the question of passing the Bill surfaced as both the parties were not committed to social justice.

Mr. Siddaramaiah said that in the context of the present-day social structure, the concept of social justice should be viewed from multiple perspectives such as social, political, and economic equality.

One's efficiency could never be measured by one's gender. Political activities and elections were there even in pre-independent era and there was no room for gender bias then.

He said the underlying factor for the exploitation of women or Dalits or any group of people that was not socially and politically conscious was "selfishness of a set or sets of powerful individuals" for larger gains.

"Social justice is not just a programme or two aimed at pleasing some people at some time. In a democracy, it is a perpetual process," he argued.

Tracing the history of women's participation in socio-political activities in the State, the President of the State unit of the Janata Dal (S) said the Anubhava Mantapa created by Sri Basaveshwara at Kalyana in the 12th century provided a forum for women to express their political points of view.

Mr. Siddaramaiah claimed that his party, when it was in power, had given 40 per cent reservation to women in several local bodies.

However, going by experience, it was desirable that women, particularly in rural areas, should develop political consciousness and exercise political responsibility, he suggested.

The former Minister for Health, H.C. Mahadevappa and the former Minister of State for Kannada and Culture, Leeladevi R. Prasad, attended the meeting.

The Janata Dal (S) President and former Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda, who was scheduled to participate, did not come.

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