The Opposition on Wednesday expressed deep disappointment over the delay in women’s reservation even after the passage of the much-awaited bill, questioning the Narendra Modi government’s true intent in linking its implementation to delimitation.
Leading the charge during the debate in the Lok Sabha on the bill which was passed later in the day, Rahul Gandhi described the transfer of power to women as a “big step” but said he found it strange that it had been tied to a new census and delimitation.
“The bill can be implemented today by giving 33 per cent of the seats in the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabhas to women,” he said, and urged the government to do so.
“I wonder if this (linking the quota to a new census and delimitation) is not designed to push the ball forward, seven-eight-nine years and let the things play out,” he added.
Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi said: “We are happy with the passage of this bill but there is a concern, too. I want to ask a question — Women waiting for the last 13 years for their political role are still being told to wait. How many more years — two, four, six or eight years? Is this a desirable behaviour with the women of India?”
“Further delay enforcing the reservation is a gross injustice against Indian women. Clear all the hurdles; it is necessary and possible,” she added.
Sonia speaks in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. PTI picture
Rahul accused the government of a tendency to divert attention from real concerns, such as the Adani issue and a caste census.
“The moment the Opposition raises the issue of caste census, the BJP tries to create a new distraction, a new event, so that the OBC community and the people of India look the other way. What is the participation of OBCs in the institutions — Parliament, bureaucracy, judiciary, media — that define how our country moves forward?” Rahul asked.
The data had left him “shocked and shattered”, he said. “Out of the 90 secretaries managing the core of governance, there are only three from the OBC communities. The three secretaries from the OBC community manage only about 5 per cent of the country’s total budget,” he underlined.
As the Treasury benches protested loudly, the Speaker said the discussion on Wednesday was on the women’s bill.
“It is about transfer of power to the people of India. Women are one category and OBCs are another,” Rahul responded. “Do a caste census. Release the data of the census we had conducted. Or, we will release the data.”
Rahul also flagged the absence of President Droupadi Murmu during the shift from the old to the new Parliament building.
Home minister Amit Shah countered him saying the government, not the secretaries, run the country, and law minister Arjun Ram Meghwal said the secretaries today were IAS officers of the 1992 batch when the system was run by the Congress.
Sonia recalled the glorious legacy of the freedom struggle when Sarojini Naidu, Sucheta Kriplani, Aruna Asaf Ali, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and millions of other women worked with Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel, and presented Indira Gandhi as another example of women’s capabilities.
She also described the bill’s passage as an emotional moment because it was Rajiv Gandhi who first brought a Constitution amendment bill in 1989 for reservation for women in local bodies which couldn’t be passed in the Rajya Sabha. The P.V. Narasimha Rao government later got it passed.
Sonia said: “The government should take all the necessary steps. Reservation for women from OBC, SC-ST communities must be ensured after getting the caste census done.”
Trinamul MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar questioned the mindset of the RSS-BJP towards women, recalling shameful incidents like Unnao, Hathras, Kathua and the protest by the wrestlers against sexual exploitation.
She said Mamata Banerjee had already implemented 40 per cent reservation in Trinanmul and given key portfolios to women in the state government
Describing the linking of delimitation with reservation for women as a sinister move, the Trinamul MP pointed to the regular defamation of women by the BJP’s IT cell. She recalled what IT cell chief Amit Malviya had tweeted in March 2010: “Sonia Gandhi holding the nation to ransom just to fulfill her agenda to see the Women Reservation Bill through. Will her MPs stand up to her?”
DMK member Kanimozhi said the government had used this important bill as an opportunity for politicking. She said the government had said the bill would be brought only after consultation with all stakeholders.
“What consultation was done, with whom? You brought it secretly without discussions with anybody. We were filled with happiness but our hearts sank when we knew we have to wait for more. The delimitation drama has been staged by the BJP and the reservation can be implemented for the 2024 elections.”
NCP leader Supriya Sule recalled how a BJP leader from Maharashtra asked her to go home and cook, arguing that the BJP has always been anti-women. Talking about rising crimes against women in all states, she described the bill as a “post-dated cheque which has to be encashed from a crashing bank”.