Maneka Gandhi: No party is serious about Women’s Reservation Bill

Neelu Vyas

In an exclusive interview to Rajya Sabha TV, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Sanjay Gandhi has said that no political party is serious about bringing in the Women’s Reservation Bill. She has also called the bill, which was introduced by the Deve Gowda government in 1996, as clumsy because according to her it it will only encourage dynasty politics. The minister also said that it is the women who allow themselves to become vote banks.

Here are a some edited excerpts from the interview:

How optimistic are you about the Women’s Reservation Bill? Are we going to see it in this tenure?

I wish I could answer that question. The decision on Women’s Reservation Bill is to be taken by all parties because it will completely change the nature of politics and also completely change the nature of representation in Parliament. It’s a decision that no party is willing to proceed with. They all pay lip service in front of the cameras.

Also, the Bill by itself is very clumsy. It’s a reservation for 5 years, and then it reverts to being a general seat. Will a man who has served for 4 years, vacate his seat for any random woman? No – he’ll instead put his wife and daughter in his place. Do we just want the Parliament to be full of just wives, daughters, girlfriends and grandmothers? We don’t!

Do you suffocate in politics? Do you feel at times that you are not allowed to work the way you want? 

No I don’t feel suffocated in politics because I do exactly what I want to do. Nobody has to allow me. I work very very hard. I am very committed. Not only as an animal activist, I work hard in almost everything.

Women have always been treated as a vote bank? How can the political class prohibit themselves from treating women as vote banks? 

Nobody has to prohibit anyone. If you allow yourself to become a votebank , why will the politicians not take advantage? Women have to bank on their capabilities, their passion. They will have to look for ways and means to improve themselves and rise higher and higher.

You championed the cause of the Maternity Benefit Law but it caters to women only in the formal sector. What about the informal sector?

You are talking about the women in formal employment. How can one create benefit for those women who are not employed, who are not registered?

What do you have to tell the males of India? 

They should stop being insecure about their women.

(Watch the entire interview on the show To The Point at 10 pm on Wednesday, only on Rajya Sabha TV)