Support women's quota bill; but also demand SC,ST, OBC quota, say Uma Bharti and Sonia Gandhitext_fields
New Delhi: For all the chorus of support for the Women's Reservation bill, calls are coming louder and louder from an expanding range of politicians for including a quota for SC/ST within the women's quota. It may be pertinent to recall that when the bills for similar quota had come up for parliamentary approval, they mostly stalled on the issue of including OBC quota within the women's quota.
One voice that sprang in support of the bill, but also demanding a quota for SC/ST, is that of former BJP chief minister and MP Uma Bharti, who has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Another is that of none less authentic as Congress voice as that of former congress President Sonio Gandhi.
Even as she lauded the govt for the bill, Uma Bharti demanded that it should have a further reservation within the 33 per cent of 50 percent for Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC's). All the same, she made clear her support saying that the “step is a matter of happiness for the women of the country".
Bharti recalled that when the Women’s Reservation Bill was presented in the House by the then Prime Minister Deve Gowda in 1996, she had then moved an amendment to this effect
“I was a Member of Parliament. I immediately stood up and moved an amendment to this Bill and more than half of the House supported me. Deve Gowda happily accepted the amendment. He announced the handing over of the Bill to the Standing Committee,” IANS reported Uma Bharti as writing to Modi.
She also recalled that there was a lot of uproar in the House before it was adjourned. She reminisced in her letter that, when she came to the corridor of the House, many MPs from her party were angry but late former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee gave her a patient ear.“Despite being staunch political opponents, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Yadav, and their party MPs were all in favour of the amendment,” she wrote.
“I am presenting a proposal for an amendment before you (PM Modi) as well. I am confident that you will get this Bill passed with the proposed amendments. The 33 per cent reservation for women in legislative bodies is a special provision. However, it should be ensured that of these 33 per cent reserved seats, 50 per cent are set aside for ST, SC and OBC women,” Bharti’s letter read.
Bharti also took up a matter atypical of her stances by asserting that backward women from the Muslim community should also be considered for reservation in legislative bodies. “If this Bill is passed without this special provision, then the women from the backward classes will be deprived of this special opportunity,” she added.
No less vociferous for the backward communities' quota is the voice of Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) chairperson Sonia Gandhi who spoke on the bill on Wednesday.
Participating in the discussion on the bill in Lok Sabha, she made it a point to highlight that the bill was the dream of her late husband and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Hinting at the possible delay in implementing the bill, she demanded that it should be implemented soon with the inclusion of SC, ST and OBC communities.
As part of the demand for OBC and SC/ST quota in women's reservation, she further echoed the Congress' nascent advocacy for a caste census.
But her support for the new legislation was unequivocal when she said "On behalf of the Congress party, I stand in support of the 'Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam 2023' (Women's Reservation Bill)."
The Rae Bareli MP recalled names of eminent women leaders of the past including Sarojini Naidu, Sucheta Kriplani, Vijay Laxmi Pandit and Rajkumari Amrit Kaur. They together with lakhs of women and many more have brought the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on the ground, Sonia said.Sonia Gandhi recalled that it was Rajiv Gandhi who as prime minister had for the first time introduced a bill through a bill to give women quota in local bodies but it was defeated in the Rajya Sabha for seven votes. It was brought again during PV Narasimha Rao's reign, and now 15 lakh women politicians have come up as local political leaders as a result of the legislation.
Sonia also said that women who have been waiting for 13 years (referring the 2010 passage of the bill in Rajya Sabha) and asked how long more they should wait. Instead, she said the bill should be passed and implemented immediately, along with quota for women from SC, ST and OBC by holding caste census.
The bill does have a provision for SC and ST, but not for OBC. However, even after the bill is passed, it probably won't be until the 2029 general election that it will be implemented at a national level, since a constituency delimitation has to be held followed by a census which has been put off since 2021. The latest decennial census was conducted in 2011, but due to Covid-related disruptions, the 2021 census was deferred a few times.
(Inputs from agencies)