Congress President Sonia Gandhi has approached Prime Minister Narendra Modi to use BJP's majority in the Lok Sabha and ensure the passage of the long-pending Women's Reservation Bill. The Bill as passed in the Rajya Sabha in 2010 during the Congress-led UPA's rule. However, it has not been tabled in the Lower House since then.
It is to be noted that the legislation guarantees 33% reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies, ensuring a strong women's voice in the Parliament, which would help frame policies fighting abuse, discrimination and inequality.
Meanwhile, rumors are rife that Sonia Gandhi may finally leave her position of 19 years in the party to her son by October 31. Explaining that the Bill has been lying in the Lok Sabha for one reason or the other, she said in the letter, "I am writing to request you to take advantage of your majority in the Lok Sabha to now get the Women's Reservation Bill Passed in the Lower House as well."
Owing to the fact that women comprise 43% of the electorate, the passing of the Bill could also win the government people's confidence. Recalling how reservation Bill was first mooted by the Congress and its late leader Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi said that it demands reservation for women in panchayats and municipal bodies through Constitutional Amendments.
As per the latest statistics available with the United Nations, women in India have only 11% representation in both the Houses of Parliament, placing the country in the 149th position in the world.
The then HD Deve Gowda Government first introduced the Bill in the Parliament in 1996. Since then, there have been a number of political debates in the Assembly. However, there was no outcome ultimately. Parties have failed to keep their promises for the sole reason that the male politicians believed that the reservation would mean that their bastion is gone.
A Constitution Amendment Bill requires a special majority for its passage in each House, i.e., a majority of the total membership of a House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting.
Since 1996, the Bill faced multiple dissolutions and re-introductions by consecutive governments. In 2010, the then UPA government adopted it in the Rajya Sabha to keep it alive on the legislative agenda as Bills introduced and passed by the Upper House do not lapse.
However, Sonia's party members are divided. While the women rejoice, the male members fear that the party will fall apart given the differences pertaining to the Bill. This could particularly be harmful when the opposition is so strong. Moreover, the Bill also proposes that the two-thirds reservation will also apply to seats already reserved for SC and ST candidates. However, the BSP wants a separate and additional quota for women in this category, not disturbing the existing quota reserved for these categories.