Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress president and leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, ahead of the discussion on the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament, on Wednesday, questioned the intention of the government and said he feels that the government is publicising the issue in view of upcoming elections.
Speaking to the media at his residence ahead of the day three of the Parliament’s special session, Kharge said, “In 2010, we passed the Bill in Rajya Sabha. But it failed to be passed by the Lok Sabha. That is why this is not a new Bill.”
He also said that if the Bill had been taken forward, it would have been in place today.
“I feel that they are publicising this in view of elections but actually unless the delimitation or census takes place…you can feel how long it is going to take. They could have continued with the earlier one but their intentions are something else…,” he said.
Kharge added, “But we will insist that women’s reservation has to be brought and we will fully cooperate. But the loopholes and drawbacks should be rectified.”
The remarks of the Congress leader came a day after the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023, was introduced in the supplementary list of business in the Lok Sabha.
The Women’s Reservation Bill has proposed that there will be a quota for SCs and STs within the reserved seats for women and that it would continue for a period of 15 years. However, sources said that the legislation is unlikely to be implemented in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Sources added that the Bill will be rolled out only after the delimitation process is over — most probably in 2029. According to the Bill, seats reserved for women will be rotated after each delimitation exercise. The reservation will continue for 15 years and will come into effect after a delimitation exercise is undertaken.
According to the government, while women participate substantively in panchayats and municipal bodies, their representation in assemblies and Parliament is still limited. Women enrich the quality of legislative debates and decision-making and bring different perspectives to the table, it added.
Meanwhile, the Congress has dubbed the Bill as a “poll jumla” and also an act of betrayal with women and girls of the country.
A History of the Bill
In 1987, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s government constituted a 14-member committee led by Union Minister Margaret Alva to give recommendations for improving the status of women. Rajiv Gandhi introduced the Constitution Amendment Bill to provide one-third reservation for women in rural and urban local bodies. The Bill was passed in Lok Sabha but failed to get passed in Rajya Sabha in September 1989.
In 1992, Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao’s government passed the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts which mandated 33.3 percent reservation for women in Panchayati Raj Institutions. The women’s reservation bill was first introduced by the HD Deve Gowda-led government, as Constitution (81st Amendment) Bill, 1996 in the 11th Lok Sabha on 12 September 1996. It was then referred to the Joint Committee of the two Houses of Parliament, but the bill lapsed with the dissolution of the 11th Lok Sabha. The joint parliamentary committee report examining the Women’s Reservation Bill in 1996 recommended that reservation be provided for women of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) once the Constitution was amended to allow for reservation for OBCs.
On 19 September 2023, Narendra Modi government introduced the bill as 128th Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2023, during the Parliament’s Special Session in Lok Sabha in the new parliament building. The Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam will go to the Rajya Sabha again, after it is passed by the Lok Sabha.