Even though women constitute half of the world, their representation in the legislature has been very low. The proposal for giving women reserved representation is yet to get passed the Lok Sabha even though every political party professes sympathy for the proposed amendment.
The male members do not want the proposal to go through and have been putting obstructions by way of amendments that are not acceptable to other parties. Political parties set up women candidates only where there is more than a fair chance of their getting elected.
Reservations for special categories
The constitution provides for certain constituencies being reserved for candidates belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. In the Lok Sabha as mainly as 79 seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes and another 41 for Scheduled Tribes candidates. In the Panchayats and Municipal Councils, one-third of seats are reserved for women candidates.
Is this reservation fair to the rest of the voters? One of the faces of it, reservation goes against the principles of equality. However, in the Indian conditions, there are certainly historical reasons why certain communities have remained backward. They are unable to compete with the rest of the population since they have neither the resources to fight the elections nor acceptance among voters of the so-called high caste persons.
The proportion of seats reserved is in proportion to their total strength in terms of population. Reservation ensures for them a level playing field or else they would have continued to suffer discrimination and lack of representation. Suggestions for changes in the electoral system and law may be briefly summarized as below:
• Political parties should be required to maintain accounts of their receipts and expenditure subject to audit by agencies specified by the Election Commission.
• The ceiling on expenses that could be incurred by candidates should be made realistic.
• Contributions and donations made to political parties should be made legal and transparent.
• Political parties that have secured prescribed minimum votes in the last elections should get state subsidies for electioneering. Such provisions exist in Germany, Canada, Japan, France, etc.
• There should be a system of registration of political parties. They should be required by law to publish their accounts annually which have been duly audited by a designated authority.
• The present law that disqualification is involved only after conviction needs to be amended.
• Political parties must shed their male bias and agree to greater and reserved representation for women in Lok Sabha and State Legislatures.
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