Maharashtra is set to get around 95 women MLAs in the 288-member Legislative Assembly when the proposed Women’s Reservation Bill is implemented in the country, unsettling many male politicians across parties. Presently, the state’s lower house has only 24 MLAs and a sole woman Cabinet Minister Aditi Tatkare, but after the 33 percent women’s quota bill is introduced, the state would have around 95 female MLAs.
From the current (24) strength, the BJP has 11, Congress has five, Nationalist Congress Party has three, Shiv Sena has two, Shiv Sena (UBT) has one, and there are two other Independents – totaling 24. While all political parties have openly hailed the 33 percent reservations for women, privately it has unnerved many of the male leaders, particularly those commanding their independent bastions for years, and created doubts about their political future. A senior Congress leader said that akin to the reserved SC-ST constituencies, it is expected that the seats for women candidates would also be earmarked, compelling all parties to compulsorily field women in those constituencies to ensure the 33 percent quota in the elected House. “Depending on when or how soon the 33 percent reservations are enforced, all political parties would have to heavily juggle with their candidates’ lists, find suitable women nominees for various seats given many other considerations like caste, age, political experience, seniority, etc,” he explained, declining to be quoted.
An NCP (SP) group leader preferring anonymity, said that all parties would now have to focus on and either create a dedicated separate women’s cadre, develop leadership qualities, or strengthen their existing women’s wings which are generally treated as a ‘formality’, plus “cast the net wide to attract younger, educated women, especially in the rural areas, which will be no mean task”. Local chieftains of various political parties, who are lording in certain constituencies for years or decades, are seriously worried for their future prospects in case their seat/s is/are suddenly declared as ‘reserved’ for women candidates. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, Deputy CMs Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar, and Leaders of Opposition Vijay Wadettiwar (Assembly) and Ambadas Danve (Council), and heads of major parties have warmly welcomed the move to give greater representation to the fair sex in parliament and legislatures, and make them ‘more empowered’.