Reservation for women a non-starter in Congress


Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  Congress UP in-charge Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s decision to reserve 40 per cent of party tickets for women candidates in state grabbed eyeballs. However, the party has failed to implement a similar decision by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in 1998 to reserve 33 per cent of all party posts for women.

Over two decades down the line, the 19-member Congress Working Committee has only two women — Ambika Soni and Priyanka. There are two women — Meira Kumar and Rajni Patil — in the list of 24 members as permanent invitees. Netta D’souza is the only woman among nine special invites.

Among the 100 AICC officer bearers — general secretaries, in-charges, secretaries and joint secretaries — there are only six women. Besides Priyanka and Patil, others are Deepika Pandey Singh (secretary, Uttarakhand), Dr Prabha Kishore Taviad (All India Mahila Congress), Ranjeet Ranjan (secretary, Himachal Pradesh) and Sonal Patel (secretary, Maharashtra). The five-member Central Election Authority has Tamil Nadu MP S Jothimani. The  10-member Central Election Committee has three — Ambika Soni, Mohsina Kidwai and Girija Vyas.

After Sonia took over as Congress president in 1998, she announced 33 per cent reservation for women in CWC, AICC office bearers, state Congress committees and also at the district and block levels. A resolution to this regard was passed at the Pachmarhi brainstorming session of the party in 1998 that talked about ‘33 per cent reservation for women at all levels’ and ‘respectful representation for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.’ This is yet to be implemented even though the party’s reins remained with Sonia but for two years from December 2017 to May 2019, when Rahul Gandhi was the chief.

“Some were upset about the decision with the apprehension of losing party positions to accommodate women leaders. But nothing much has happened since 1998 and it is yet to be implemented in the party,” said a senior leader, who attended the Pachmarhi session. Both Sonia and Rahul have been pushing for a 33 per cent reservation for women in Lok Sabha. The  party’s 2019 election manifesto talked about one-third reservation for women in government sector to increase representation.

Figures of disparity

ACWC members 19 Women 2

Permanent invitees 24 Women 2

Special invitees 9 Woman 1

AICC office bearers 100 Women 6

Central Election Authority members 5 Woman 1

Central Election Committee members 10 Women 3

Fear of losing
There are leaders in the party who fear they might lose prominence if positions are reserved for women. According to insiders, this might be a reason why reserving 33% of party posts  has not materealised.

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