Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday made a strong pitch for the women’s reservation bill in his opening speech in the new Parliament. Declaring himself “chosen by God for this pious task”, the Prime Minister called for increased focus on women-led development and praised the bill, which was cleared late last evening by the union cabinet and tabled this afternoon. “The world understands that only talking of women(-led) development is not enough… this is a positive step taken on this front.”
The PM also seized the moment to take a swipe at the opposition, stating previous governments – an unstated reference to Congress-led governments that preceded his – failed to clear this bill.
“Parliament has tried (to pass the bill) in the past too… there have been discussions around women’s reservations for years. Can say with pride we have scripted history,” the PM told Parliament.
“The bill was tabled multiple times in Atalji‘s (the late former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee) tenure… (now) God has chosen me for this pious task,” the PM declared amid criticism his government delayed passing this bill till now in anticipation of an image boost before next year’s general election.
The Prime Minister had earlier also said passing the bill – tabled today by Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal – will be an “agni pareeksha“, or trial by fire, for MPs.
The bill proposes 33 per cent reservation for women in parliament and state legislatures.
The Lok Sabha will discuss the bill on Wednesday and the Rajya Sabha will debate it on Thursday.
Differences of opinion over a quota for women within that reserved for SC and ST communities had prevented the bill from clearing Parliament despite having been cleared by the Rajya Sabha in 2010.
The bill then lapsed since it was not taken up by the Lok Sabha within the specified time.
This time around, though, given the Bharatiya Janata Party’s brute majority in the Lok Sabha and support from allies in the Rajya Sabha, the bill is on the verge of becoming law.
However, the quota may not come into force before 2029, since it will rely on data from a census that has not yet been conducted and a delimitation, or redrawing of constituencies, exercise.
The latter will only take place in 2027 – after the next census.
Meanwhile, claiming the spirit of a new start in the new Parliament building, the Prime Minister in his speech also offered “apologies… to someone we have hurt intentionally or unintentionally”.
“Samvatsari (a Jain festival) is celebrated today… this is a wonderful tradition. Today is the day we can say ‘micchami dukkadam‘… this gives us the chance to apologise to someone we hurt intentionally or unintentionally. I want to say ‘micchami dukkadam‘ to all Members of Parliament and people of India.”