Congress president Sonia Gandhi has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to get the women’s reservation bill passed in the Lok Sabha given the BJP’s clear majority in the Lower House.
The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha in March 2010, when the Congress-led UPA-2 government was in power. The bill lapsed after the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2014.
The Congress president assured the Prime Minister of her party’s full support to the bill, which she said would be a significant step in empowering the nation’s women.
Recalling that it was former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who, in 1989, had mooted reservations for women in panchayats and nagar palikas, Mrs Gandhi wrote: “The Congress and its leader late Rajiv Gandhi first mooted the idea of women’s reservation in panchayats and nagar palikas in the Constitution Amendment Bills which the Opposition parties thwarted in the Rajya Sabha in 1989. But later, in 1993 they were passed by both Houses.”
In its reaction to Mrs Gandhi’s letter, the BJP said she should have spoken to her allies who had blocked the passage of the bill earlier. “Rather than writing to the Prime Minister, Sonia Gandhi ought to have written or spoken to her alliance partners like Lalu Prasad Yadav (RJD) and Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP) to find out why they had blocked the Women’s Reservation Bill when the UPA was in power,” said BJP spokesman G.V.L. Narasimha Rao.
Addressing the media, the new Mahila Congress chief, Sushmita Dev, a Lok Sabha MP, said the BJP should demonstrate its commitment towards passage of the bill. She said: “The question we ask Modiji after three years of the BJP (coming to power) is… why the delay?” She said that former parliamentary affairs minister M. Venkaiah Naidu had said the government had received several letters from public representatives and NGOs pressing for the passage of the bill.
Ms Dev said: “Once a parliamentary affairs minister makes that statement on the floor of the Lok Sabha, and if Sonia Gandhiji gives him six months or a year to implement that, I will say it was her faith in the government’s motives. But this did not happen.”
The Congress also urged that the bill should be passed immediately so that the reservations come into effect ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Ms Dev said the Prime Minister should give an assurance that it will be in place for the 2019 polls, else the BJP’s commitment to women’s reservations will only be “symbolism”.
Senior Congress leader Shobha Oza said that a Congress delegation will soon meet the President of India to press the demand for the government to bring in the women’s reservation bill at the earliest. The Congress is collecting signatures from across the country to be submitted to the President. The women’s reservation bill as passed by the Rajya Sabha envisages 33 per cent reservations for women in Parliament and the state legislatures.