The Bharatiya Janata Party was the first political party in India to adopt a formal resolution in support of 33% reservation for women in Parliament and State Legislatures and to demand a necessary Constitutional amendment to this effect. The Party did so at the meeting of its National Executive held in Vadodara on July 10-12, 1994. We continued to reiterate this demand in our subsequent resolutions and election manifestos.
After it assumed office in March 1998, the Government of the National Democratic Alliance introduced a Constitutional Amendment bill in Parliament to give effect to this demand. Our Government did its very best, not once but twice, to get this bill passed. Unfortunately, it could not be passed due to lack of consensus among parties in Parliament.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission made its own effort at securing reservation for women in Parliament and State Legislatures. The Election Commission suggested that every political party mandatorily field women candidates in 33% of the total number of constituencies it contests. It also suggested that Parliament pass a law to this effect. This suggestion, if implemented, would not secure 33% reservation for women; nevertheless, it would certainly increase the percentage of women members in Parliament and State Legislatures. The BJP supported the Election Commission's suggestion. However, even this proposal has not received necessary support from other political parties.
The National Executive wishes to strongly restate its commitment to political empowerment of women through increased representation for them in legislative bodies. It is for this reason that our Party has consistently supported both initiatives to secure this objective - the Election Commission's suggestion as well as the earlier proposal for 33% reservation through a Constitutional Amendment.
The issue of women's reservation is being debated in the country for many years. However, in the absence of any decision in the matter, women's representation in legislative bodies has remained very low - from zero to around 10 per cent. The positive experience and outcome of women's reservation in Panchayati Raj Institutions and municipal bodies is already before the Nation. Therefore, Our Party believes that the basic purpose of the Women's Reservation Bill, which seeks to significantly increase the level of women's representation in Parliament and State Legislatures, should be realized without any further delay.
In order to secure this objective, the BJP is now of the considered view that 33% of the seats in the Lok Sabha be made Double-Member Constituencies. One of the two seats be mandatorily reserved for women in these constituencies, which would change on a rotational basis. This would increase the total number of members in the Lok Sabha by 181. The same approach can also be adopted in State Legislatures.
The National Executive of the BJP urges the NDA Government to take necessary initiative in this matter and introduce a suitable Constitutional Amendment bill in Parliament at the earliest. This is the best way of realizing the long-unrealised dream of reservation for women in Parliament and State Legislatures.