MPs across political aisle back women reservation bill in India’s Rajya Sabha
Some opposition members, however, accused the Narendra Modi government over the bill, saying moving it at this time was more of an election gimmick.
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CUTTING across party lines, members of Rajya Sabha or the Upper House of the Indian parliament on Thursday (21) supported the bill to provide 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha or Lower House of Parliament and state assemblies, even as some opposition members termed it an election gimmick ahead of polls in a number of states in India as well as the national one next year.
During the debate in the Upper House on the 128th Constitution Amendment Bill (Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam) that seeks to reserve a third of seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women, members also highlighted the need to accelerate the process instead of waiting for a fresh census and delimitation exercise.
Taking part in the discussion, Elamaram Kareem of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said while supporting the bill that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had promised to bring the women’s reservation bill in 2014 and in 2019 as well but did not take any action.
He held the ruling party responsible for women’s reservation falling behind by nine years.
This is an election gimmick by the BJP after losing elections in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, besides facing defeat in the civic polls in Delhi polls, he said.
Citing violence against women in strife-torn north-eastern state of Manipur and allegations of sexual harassment by women wrestlers a few months before against the former chief of the Wrestling Federation of India who is also a BJP parliamentarian, Kareem alleged the government cared little for women.
Ram Nath Thakur of the Janata Dal (United), the ruling party of the eastern state of Bihar and an opposition to the BJP, questioned the timing of bringing the bill.
K Keshava Rao, parliamentarian from the Bharat Rashtra Samithi which is in power in the poll-bound southern state of Telangana, stressed the need to accelerate the process for women’s reservation and said the 2011 census could be taken as the benchmark.
He urged immediate appointment of the delimitation commission.
Vaiko of MDMK, a political party from the southern state of Tamil Nadu, also echoed similar sentiments.
Saroj Pandey of the BJP said it was unfortunate that questions have been raised on the timing and the intent of bringing the bill. As the country celebrates the ‘Amrit Kaal’ (golden era), this was the ideal moment for such legislation, she said.
Birendra Prasad Baishya, an MP from Asom Gana Parishad from the north-eastern state of Assam, noted that the women’s reservation bill has come at a “proper time” after failed attempts in the past.
Former Indian prime minister and Janata Dal (Secular) leader H D Devegowda also supported the bill and recollected steps taken by him for women’s reservation while he was the chief minister of Karnataka and also the prime minister.
Manoj Jha of the Rastriya Janata Dal from Bihar said demanded that the women’s reservation bill be referred to a select committee to consider extending similar benefits to Other Backward Classes (OBC).
KC Venugopal of the Indian National Congress sought immediate implementation of the legislation. He also sought reservation for the OBC women under the bill, reflecting what senior party leader Rahul Gandhi said in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday (20).
Venugopal claimed the Narendra Modi government did not make any effort to bring the bill in the last nine years and it is due to the political calculations that the government has brought the legislation now.
“Life-transforming legislation should come from the heart and not from the head,” he said in the Upper House.
Rajani Ashokrao Patil of the Congress and Mausam Noor of the Trinamool Congress also supported the bill.
(With PTI inputs)