New Delhi: BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi today advocated for making class VIII pass mandatory for contesting elections, while Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyer suggested increasing the strength of Parliament to address the long-pending issue of reservation for women.
Speaking at a seminar ‘Women will make the laws: A case for greater political representation’, which saw divergent views on this subject, Ms Lekhi said, “Wisdom has no connection with literacy, but a minimum literacy is important for the democratic powers to seep down.”
She was responding to criticism by Subhashini Ali, a CPI(M) Politburo member, who attacked the BJP-ruled Haryana and Rajasthan governments for bringing “regressive” laws which requires people to have minimum education qualifications for contesting local self-government polls.
“Class V and IX somewhere has to be made mandatory even at higher levels,” she said.
Defending the legislation of the two states, Ms Lekhi said since the law came into force, child mortality rate has improved, especially in Haryana, as literacy helps in better understanding of administration.
She said there needs to be some kind of sensitivity towards local governance.
Referring to Rajasthan’s case, where having a toilet is also a criterion for contesting local body polls, Ms Lekhi asked, “What kind of leadership are you looking at when somebody is insensitive about even having a toilet?”
The BJP MP said the world bank had funded many toilets in Uttar Pradesh.
“But these people would block the toilet and never use because that would be the only time (when they go out to answer nature’s call) to connecting with others,” she said. Ms Lekhi also said instead of having 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and state legislatures, there should be a law making it mandatory for parties to distribute 33 per cent tickets to women.
She said it was her personal opinion and not her party’s.
With the debate over reservation for women going on for more than two decades now, Mr Aiyar said a possible way to increase their strength in Parliament could be by enhancing the number of seats so that even men do not feel they are being discriminated against because of gender.
Currently, most states don’t have a minimum educational qualification to contest the elections.