The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia pledges support to women’s quota Bill

New Delhi, April 15: Sonia Gandhi has assured women’s organisations that the Congress will hand in a letter to the Prime Minister pledging support for the women’s reservation Bill.

A nine-member woman’s delegation met parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday and urged her to pass the long pending Bill. “She was very supportive. Let’s see what happens,” Brinda Karat, All India Democratic Women’s Association leader, said.

Swaraj assured the team the BJP was ready to pass the Bill and it could be done with support from the Congress and the Left despite opposition from other parties. She advised them to get a letter of support from the Congress so that the government could push through the Bill in the House.

Yesterday, the women’s delegation called on Sonia. She told them her party was totally committed to the Bill and she was ready to give a letter of support. Sonia has been a votary of 33 per cent quota for women in Parliament and Assemblies though there have been dissenting voices in the Congress.

The loudest opponents to the Bill are the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal which want the 33 per cent quota slashed. At the last all-party meeting convened by the Centre, both parties backed the Election Commission’s suggestion that political parties should introduce a quota for women, but opposed 33 per cent quota in the Assemblies and Parliament.

“We urged Sonia Gandhi not to consider the Election Commission’s suggestion that the parties could themselves fix a quota of seats for women,” said Jyotsna Chatterjee of Joint Women’s Programme.

For the last seven years, the women’s reservation Bill has been in limbo. The United Front government, during its 1996-98 stint, failed to pass the Bill in the face of opposition from the Samajwadi and RJD. The National Democratic Alliance, too, has been similarly unsuccessful.

Women’s organisations believe that if the Centre is serious, it can push the Bill through with the help of the Congress and the Left. The NDA’s allies, too, are backing the Bill.

“There is no question of not having the numbers. The BJP and the Congress have passed Bills on economic policies and privatisation even when Left parties, along with the Samajwadi and RJD, were opposing them,” said Chatterjee.

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