Checkmate, Says Congress to Yadav Chiefs
It was Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s parting shot to political leaders at the end of an all-party meeting on the Women’s Reservation Bill on 5 April that gave the first real glimpse of what the Government has in mind against unyielding Yadav chieftains—Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, and Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal-United.
“The Government also wants to know the views of all parties on the Ranganath Mishra Commission report,” Pranab is said to have told the leaders moments before they rose, leaving the consensus building process on the Women’s Bill inconclusive. Many see it as Pranab’s way of dropping a political bombshell in the blandest manner. The Ranganath Mishra Commission has suggested, among other things, the use of reservations for Muslims.
Its reference by Congress’ chief strategist at the end of a meet called to break the deadlock on the Bill surprised all.
Ever since the realisation dawned on the Congress that the Women’s Reservation Bill could cost the party some crucial Muslim votes, and give Lalu and Mulayam a fresh lease of life, the party has been debating the possibility of using the Ranganath Mishra Commission report to assuage minority sentiments. The party has, however, refrained from making its views public, waiting for a politically opportune moment to do so. The occasion that the Government chose to express its intentions indicates that the plan is not restricted to winning Muslims alone. It is also aimed at putting the Yadav troika—the most vociferous opponents of the Women’s Reservation Bill—in a complete bind. Sources say, of all the reservation alternatives suggested by the Ranganath Mishra Commission, the Congress is in favour of one that calls for earmarking a sub-quota for Muslims within the 27 per cent reservation for OBCs. For the Congress, the move could well be a masterstroke, not only sending positive signals to Muslims, but also pushing Lalu and Mulayam into a no-win situation. For, if they support it, they would antagonise OBCs, and if they oppose it, they could lose Muslims. Either way, they lose.
As for the possibility of the Congress annoying OBCs, a senior party leader says that this social segment—the main beneficiaries of Mandal reservations—has hardly ever been a real support base for the party and they, therefore, do not matter much in the social coalition being planned for the grand old party’s revival in the Hindi belt.
DHIRENDRA K JHA
Woman Power Overrides Bangalore Civic Poll Results
As the UPA called a meeting to find a way out for the Women’s Reservation Bill, history was being created in Bangalore. Its civic polls threw up a big surprise with 86 women getting elected, much higher than 33 per cent. The BJP swept the polls with a clear majority of 111 in a 198-member, newly expanded Bangalore Bruhat Mahanagara Palike. The Congress managed only 65 seats, though it had brought in five Union ministers to campaign. Pro-rural Janata Dal (S) was pushed to the margins with 15 seats. While there were cheers in the infotech city, the polls also warned what could happen if seats were reserved for women. Wives of five rowdy sheeters, basically proxy candidates, contested and won. Significantly, an alleged hooch queen from the JD(S) lost despite the party maintaining there was nothing wrong in giving tickets to those with criminal backgrounds. The victory is doubly sweet for the women as many of them are from reserved categories but won from general seats. Savitha Ramesh, BJP, summed up the sentiment: “For a woman candidate to win from a general seat is a big achievement, especially as I belong to the SC category.” The victorious women seem to have unwittingly broadened the ‘reservation within reservation’ debate.
The polls held on 28 March marked a new low, as just 44 per cent turned out to vote despite Bangaloreans’ litany of civic woes. State CM BS Yeddyurappa, who had announced Rs 21,000 crore for the city’s infrastructure projects, promised more money and timely delivery in his quest to make Bangalore a world-class city. Though the city BJP partied in darkness, it promised to fix power problems. The future belongs to the blooming lotus, it seems.
ANIL BUDUR LULLA