Women’s Reservation Bill: Complex Political Landscape

The Women’s Reservation Bill (WRB) has taken centre stage in Indian politics. While Congress and left parties have thrown their weight behind the bill, notable constituents like Lalu Yadav’s RJD and Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party have consistently opposed it in its current form. Their demand is for a quota for women from backward classes within the existing 33 per cent reservation.

One significant shift came from Nitish Kumar’s JD (U), which initially opposed the bill but came around to support it in 2010.

Owning the bill as theirs, Congress’ parliamentary party chief, Sonia Gandhi, expressed strong support for the bill. She stated, “the women’s reservation bill is ours, apna hai,” as she entered the parliament.

Reacting to this pivotal development, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh shared his thoughts, emphasizing the long-standing demand of the Congress party to implement women’s reservation.

In X, earlier twitter, he welcomed the reported decision of the Union Cabinet but also called for transparency in the process. He said it could have been discussed in an all-party meeting before the Special Session to build consensus rather than operating under a veil of secrecy.

“The Congress Working Committee has firmly asserted that the Women’s Reservation Bill must be passed during the Special Session of Parliament. To provide a comprehensive understanding of this issue, let’s revisit some essential facts,” he said and elaborated thus:

The journey toward women’s reservation in politics commenced when Rajiv Gandhi first introduced Constitution Amendment Bills for one-third reservation in panchayats and nagarpalikas in May 1989. While it successfully passed in Lok Sabha, it faced resistance in the Rajya Sabha in September 1989.

Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao reintroduced Constitution Amendment Bills for one-third reservation for women in panchayats and nagarpalikas in April 1993. Both Bills successfully passed and became law.

During his tenure as Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh introduced the Constitution Amendment Bill for one-third reservation for women in Parliament and state legislatures. Although it passed in the Rajya Sabha on March 9, 2010, it was not taken up in the Lok Sabha.

Ramesh said it was essential that Bills introduced and passed in the Rajya Sabha do not lapse, indicating that the Women’s Reservation Bill is still very much an active legislative proposal.

WOMEN’S RESERVATION BILL; CONGRESS AND BILL

The Congress party has persistently advocated for the past nine years that the Women’s Reservation Bill, already approved by the Rajya Sabha, should also receive approval from the Lok Sabha.

In a critical comment directed at the ruling BJP government, Congress leader Kapil Sibal took to Twitter, questioning why the bill was introduced now after almost a decade, especially when most political parties support it. He hinted at the upcoming 2024 elections as a possible reason and cautioned that without a quota for OBC women, the BJP may face challenges in the 2024 UP elections.

WOMEN’S RESERVATION BILL; DAY-LONG HUNGER

In a related development, Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K Kavitha initiated a day-long hunger strike in New Delhi last week, demanding the passage of the WRB. She was joined by TRS ministers Sabitha Indra Reddy and Satyavathi Rathod, with twelve political parties, including AAP, Akali Dal, TMC, JD(U), Samajwadi Party, RJD, RLD, and the Left Parties such as CPI(M), confirming their participation in the event.

The Women’s Reservation Bill continues to be a focal point in Indian politics, reflecting both support and opposition from various political quarters. The path forward remains complex, with discussions and negotiations expected to shape the future of this crucial legislation.

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