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Sushma raises women’s bill hope

New Delhi, June 11: The Narendra Modi government is determined to pass the women’s reservation bill in the Lok Sabha, senior BJP leader and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj indicated today.

Sushma said the 16th Lok Sabha would pass the bill, which seeks to reserve 33 per cent of the seats in Parliament and state legislatures for women, and sought the Opposition’s support. The Rajya Sabha had passed it in 2010.

“Saying and doing are two different things. I want to tell this House that if we have talked about 33 per cent reservation for women, then we will bring it. Soniaji is not here but I would like to tell (Congress leader Mallikarjun) Khargeji that when your party brought the bill in the Rajya Sabha, then we supported it. I would seek your support to pass the bill in the Lok Sabha,” Sushma said while participating in the discussion over the motion of thanks to the President’s address.

Kharge, the Congress’s leader in the lower House, immediately rose from his seat and offered support.

The bill has seen a political tug-of-war for over a decade, drawing stiff opposition from key heartland parties like the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal whenever efforts were made to pass it.

These parties oppose the bill saying it would lead to women from the society’s elite groups cornering seats in legislatures at the expense of those from the underprivileged sections. The parties have demanded separate sub-quotas for Dalit, tribal and minority community women within the larger 33 per cent reservation.

The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha during the Congress-led UPA’s term in March 2010 amid ruckus that saw some of the bill’s opponents snatch copies from then House chairman Hamid Ansari and tear the papers.

The bill could not sail through in the Lok Sabha because of the resistance from the three parties and a few others.

But now, with the strength of the regional parties sharply depleted in the new Lok Sabha and the BJP enjoying a majority on its own, the Modi government seems emboldened to push the legislation.