The issue became part of the UPAs agenda on the insistence of Rahul Gandhi, who wanted to take forward his father Rajiv Gandhis vision of ensuring larger participation of women in the grassroot level. In her first address to the joint houses of Parliament on June 4, President Pratibha Patil had stated that the government was committed to amending the constitution to ensure equal representation for women in panchayats.
The proposal, that is expected to be brought up for approval in the meeting of the Cabinet on Thursday, seeks to amend Article 243 (d) of the constitution that presently provides for 33% reservation for women in panchayats. The present quota was achieved through the 73rd amendment during the regime of Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, though it was Rajiv Gandhi who had first mooted the idea of empowering women at the grassroots. Union minister for rural development and panchayati Raj, CP Joshi is to move the proposal in the meeting.
States like Bihar, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have already implemented 50% reservation for women in the local bodies while other states like Kerala have declared they will be doing so in the next round of panchayati polls. Although the proposal is expected to be criticised by anti-reservationists, it is expected that the step will help in building consensus on the womens reservation bill that seeks to provide 33% quota for women in Parliament and legislative Assemblies. The bill, which has been hanging fire for over a decade now, presently stands introduced in the Rajya Sabha.
It is expected to be sent to the parliamentary standing committee on personnel and public greviances, once it gets constituted in the next couple of days.