The Women’s Reservation Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha Tuesday afternoon – in the first session in the new Parliament and shortly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “chosen by God” push.
Calling for increased focus on women-led development, the Prime Minister declared “the world understands that only talking of women(-led) development is not enough… this is a positive step”.
Most opposition parties welcomed the bill but stressed the need to study its provisions in detail. The Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party were noticeably less than impressed. The former also hinting the Bharatiya Janata Party had delayed the bill till now in hopes of a boost before next year’s election.
Congress Claims “Our” Women’s Reservation Bill
The Congress pointed out that the bill was, in fact, first tabled by the Manmohan Singh government in 2010, and that it was the subject of a letter Rahul Gandhi wrote to the Prime Minister in 2019.
Also, this morning ex-party boss Sonia Gandhi told reporters outside Parliament, “… apna hai.”
Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh condemned the bill as “election jumla” and a “huge betrayal of the hopes of crores of Indian women and girls”. Mr Ramesh red-flagged the widely-reported delay in enforcement and said, “Basically it gets headlines today with a very vague promise of implementation.”
A significant point was made by the Congress’ current boss, Mallikarjun Kharge, who urged parties (including his own) to ensure they chose educated female candidates to help push women’s rights.
The point about the BJP’s “political advantage” was also made by ex-Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal, who said, “They want to tell women they did a ‘historic’ thing! They should have done this in 2014 (when PM Modi first came to power). What is so historic about this?”
“They are showing dreams to women that they will get reservation in 2029…”
#WATCH | On Women’s Reservation Bill, Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal says, “They (BJP govt) want political advantage in 2024 and want to tell women that they did such a historic thing…they should have done this in 2014. What is so historic about this?…there will be a census and… pic.twitter.com/VEOumSlddc
— ANI (@ANI) September 19, 2023
“Making Fool Of Women” – AAP’s Charge
AAP MLA Atishi accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of feigning interest in women’s issues and said “a closer reading shows it is a ‘Mahila Bewakoof Bana’, or ‘Make Fool of Women’, bill”.
The Delhi minister was unhappy because the law (assuming Parliament passes the bill this week) is unlikely to come into effect before the 2029 election since it can only be implemented after the first delimitation, or redrawing of constituencies, exercise. This, in turn, depends on the census in 2027.
“Why have provisions of delimitation and census been included? This means women’s reservation can’t be implemented before the 2024 Lok Sabha election. We demand these provisions be done away with and reservation be implemented (now),” she told news agency PTI.
Atishi also said “the AAP supports women’s reservation in-principle” but urged the government to do more on the subject. “We want 50 per cent reservation in all government jobs for women,” she told PTI.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat said, “… bill had been promised by BJP before the 2014 elections (but) now they have brought this bill.”
#WATCH | Namakkal, Tamil Nadu: On the Women’s Reservation Bill, CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat says, “This reservation bill had been promised by the BJP before the 2014 elections…Now they have brought this bill…This bill just ensures that women are going to be deprived till the… pic.twitter.com/JO4Zl6gBrG
— ANI (@ANI) September 19, 2023
UP, Bihar Parties Respond
Samajwadi Party boss Akhilesh Yadav, who called for “a balance of gender and social justice” and clarity over details of reservation for women from marginalised sections.
“(We) need specific reservation for (women from) backward classes and minorities… for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes,” he said. Mr Yadav’s father – the late Mulayam Singh Yadav – had in 2009 called the bill a “conspiracy” against politicians who had reached Parliament through “hard struggle”.
Ex-Bihar Chief Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Rabri Devi called the bill a “gimmick… aimed at making some noise” and joined other opposition leaders in flagging the delay in implementation.
Like Mr Yadav, the Bihar leader also underlined the need to recognise different challenges faced by women from various marginalised communities. She also pointed out the 33 per cent quota, as it stands now, will be carved out of that already given to SC and ST categories, reducing their share.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP Thamizhachi Thangapandian said, “yet to read all clauses… at the moment DMK welcomes it …but we have to see all clauses and read intricacies of the bill.”
#WATCH | Delhi: “As women, we always look forward to the implementation of the bill but still we are yet to read all the clauses and the objective of the bill…At the moment, it is the stand of DMK that we will welcome the bill as Tamil Nadu is the pioneer of women’s reservation… pic.twitter.com/bvrHIvorPZ
— ANI (@ANI) September 19, 2023
Support For PM, Women’s Bill
From the critical to the supportive – Janata Dal (Secular) boss HD Deve Gowda offered his congratulations to the Prime Minister for clearing a decision “which was pending since 1996”.
Mr Deve Gowda and his son, ex-Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, are widely seen as near a pre-Lok Sabha deal with the BJP. Details are expected later this week.
“I Assure All Women”: PM Modi
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha earlier today, the Prime Minister “assured” all women his government remains “committed to making this bill a law”. In his first address in the Lok Sabha, the Prime Minister declared, “The bill was tabled multiple times… (now) God has chosen me for this pious task.”
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 Women’s Reservation Bill
The bill proposes 33 per cent reservation for women in parliament and state legislatures and was tabled in the Lok Sabha today by Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal.
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 stopped the bill in 2010. This time around, though, given the BJP’s brute majority in the Lok Sabha and support from allies in the Rajya Sabha, the bill is on the verge of becoming law.
With input from agencies