‘We want draupadis, not savitris’

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Photo: Shailendra Pandey

What made you invoke Socrates and say that you will consume poison if the women’s reservation bill is passed?
I am the kind of person who is even against hunger strikes, why will I consume poison? I said I am as ready to embark on a revolutionary path as Socrates was. My statement was manipulated by the upper caste people in the Lok Sabha, whose motives are to obstruct the progress of the weaker sections of society. I am a fighter and I will keep struggling for the betterment of the lower castes.

You claimed that having a woman president and speaker is tokenism. Why do you think the present Bill will only allow the entry of par-kati aurtein (women of elite class)?
In Indian society, a woman has always been symbolized as Sita and Savitri. But it is Draupadi who epitomises Indian women. She catalysed the entire Mahabharat. We want women like her who can fight against injustice at each step. If the weaker sections of the society are not included, only people like Sushma Swaraj and Brinda Karat will be seen in the Lok Sabha, not the true Draupadis who represent the real India.

Your opposition has created a constitutional bottleneck for the Bill. This may delay the Bill again.
Why do you think it will be delayed? The Prime Minister, too, supports me. All parties are seriously thinking about it. In India, we make dowry laws but we do nothing to change the system. My attempt is to change this kind of approach.

You said the caste system should be broken to help women in India progress. But you yourself are propagating it with this demand for quotas within quotas.
I never said that we should have women’s reservation. I said that any kind of reservation must include the 90 percent of the masses. Women can be empowered only if the caste system is abolished. But it can’t be done in one day. The roadmap for this is to give all of them representation.

Insiders say that even from your own party, people like Nitish Kumar have no plans to support you on this issue.
Nitish was the first person to demand quotas within quotas when former Prime Minister IK Gujral first made the proposal for a women’s reservation bill. He was in the Samta party then. He raised the demand much before me.

Critics also claim that after the marginalisation of RJD supremo Lalu Yadav, you are trying to occupy the non-kurmi OBC space through this step.
Poverty increases as you go down the caste hierarchy. All that I am asking is that while taking such a big step, how can you marginalize the core of the country?

Your NDA ally, the BJP’s leader Sushma Swaraj said no matter what, the Bill will be passed this time. Why this chasm and divide in the NDA?
There have been differences between the BJP and us for the last 13 years on many issues. Within the BJP, as well, there have been differences on the issue. There have always been dissenters in the BJP like Uma Bharti, Kalyan Singh and Ganga Prasad Rajput, who have opposed this Bill.

Post elections, you said that the BJP did not raise many pertinent issues like that of farmers. Didn’t the BJP listen to the demands from within the NDA?
These are times when the Lok Sabha is governed by the masses. The BJP and our party work together on a common agenda. We do not agree on everything.

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