Congress Parliamentary Party chairperson Sonia Gandhi is expected to be lead speaker from her party in the Lok Sabha when the Lower House takes up the women’s reservation Bill for debate and passage on Wednesday, September 20, 2023.
Ms. Gandhi was seen as the driving force behind the women’s reservation Bill that was passed in the Rajya Sabha on March 9,2010, during the Manmohan Singh government. But the Bill lapsed as it could not be taken up in the Lok Sabha because of a lack on consensus among political parties.
Several regional parties, including some allies of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), had objected to the fact the Bill did not have separate quota for for women belonging to Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
Quota for backward classes
On Tuesday, Congress president and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, flagged the issue, while speaking in the new chamber of the Rajya Sabha, had also raised the issue.
Mr. Kharge’s stance is politically significant as some regional parties, who are part of the Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), opposed the Women’s Reservation Bill on the ground that it did not quote within quota.
Recalling that the Upper House had passed Women’s Reservation Bill in 2010, he said, “…there were some hurdles and it did not go beyond Rajya Sabha”.
“Due to Constitutional reservation SC and ST (women) had one-third reservation. But if there is no Constitutional amendment to ensure one-third seats to women from Backward Classes, they will not get reservation. If you do not do it, it will be an injustice to women from Backward Classes,” he said adding that literacy level among OBC and SC women was low and political parties often selected weak women for tickets.
“I know how women from OBC-SC communities are selected by political parties,” he said.
The other objection was about the fact that reservation will be effective only after a Census and delimitation exercise or the redrawing of boundaries of the constituencies. In a statement, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh called it an “election jumla” and “huge betrayal of hopes of women”.
“As we had pointed out earlier, Modi government has not yet conducted the 2021 Decadal Census making India the only country in G20 that has failed to carry out the Census. Now it says that the reservation for women will come into effect only following the first decadal Census conducted AFTER the Women’s Reservation Bill has become an Act. When will this Census take place,” Mr. Ramesh asked.
He said the Bill says the reservation comes into effect only after the publication of the next Census and the subsequent delimitation exercise thereafter. “Basically the Bill gets the headlines today with a very vague promise of its implementation date. This is nothing but EV - Event Management,” he added.