27 women MPs participated in Women’s Reservation Bill debate in Lok Sabha, all supported

Twenty-seven women MPs cutting across party lines spoke during the debate on the women’s reservation bill in Lok Sabha, with BJP legislators coming out in support of it and the opposition parties also backing it while demanding its immediate implementation.

Twenty-seven women MPs cutting across party lines spoke during the debate on the women’s reservation bill in Lok Sabha on Wednesday, with BJP legislators coming out in support of it and the opposition parties also backing it while demanding its immediate implementation. At present, there are 82 women MPs in Lok Sabha, out of a total strength of 543.

The government on Tuesday introduced the Constitution (128th Amendment) Bill, which seeks to reserve 33 per cent of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. It was the first bill introduced in the new Parliament building. Initiating the debate on the bill from the opposition’s side, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi said that any delay in bringing the reservation into effect would be a “gross injustice” to Indian women.

“Rajiv Gandhi’s dream is only half fulfilled. It will be fulfilled with the passage of this bill. The Congress supports this bill. We will be happy with the passage of this bill but we also have a concern. I want to ask a question. For the last 13 years, Indian women have been waiting for their political responsibilities, and now they are being asked to wait for a few more years — two years, four years, six years, eight years,” the former Congress chief said.

Is such behaviour with Indian women appropriate, she asked. “It is the demand of the Indian National Congress that the bill be immediately implemented… but, along with that, provision should be made for the reservation of SC, ST, OBC women after conducting a caste census,” she said.

NCP MP Supriya Sule also demanded that the bill be immediately implemented. “Let’s make a constitutional amendment to show our commitment to SC/ST and OBC. Unless we have delimitation and census we can’t implement it so what is this special session?… The date of next census is indeterminate, the date of next delimitation is indeterminate so how are we going to get it,” Ms Sule said.

Terming the women’s reservation bill a “sham”, TMC MP Mahua Moitra said it should be renamed as “women’s reservation rescheduling bill” and asserted that what was needed was action not “the placebo of legislatively-mandated procrastination”.

Participating in the debate, Ms Moitra said women’s reservation is dependent on two totally “indeterminate dates” and asked, “Can there be a greater jumla”. DMK MP Kanimozhi Karunanidhi also made a similar demand.

“How long should we wait before this bill can be implemented. We have seen it can easily be implemented in the coming elections. This bill is not just an act of reservation but an act of removing bias and injustice and if you do not remove the clause which says after delimitation then there is no point, because we do not know till when this inordinate delay will go on,” she said.

Shiromani Akali Dal MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal said if there is no final date on its implementation, then what was the urgency to bring it in this session. “You have brought a bill which will not give the rights to women in the next 5-6 years,” she said.

Union minister Smriti Irani slammed the opposition over its demand that the bill be implemented immediately, asking whether it is their wish to not follow constitutional process. Intervening in the discussion on the bill, the women and child development minister also hit out at opposition parties such as the Samajwadi Party for their demand for reservation for minorities and said they do not know that reservation based on religion is “prohibited” under the Constitution.

Irani cited the women’s reservation bill brought by the UPA government that was passed in 2010 by the Rajya Sabha and claimed that the Congress’ proposal was that in 15 years, the rights of women regarding reservation in Parliament would be taken away.

Responding to the opposition’s contention that the reservation be implemented with immediate effect, Irani read out provisions of the Constitution regarding census and delimitation to drive home the point that it was necessary to include in the bill.

The other two ministers to intervene were Minister of State for Health Bharati Pawar and Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Anupriya Patel. Ms Patel expressed confidence that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will come up with some steps to protect the interest of women belonging to backward classes.

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Ms Patel, a member of the Apna Dal, a BJP ally, said the demand of the opposition is not wrong and it is a “serious issue” as women belonging to backward classes are marginalised. “In our society, women belonging to backward classes are marginalised. Their challenges are different and more, and hence the demand for reservation keeps coming,” Ms Patel said.

The other women MPs who took part in the debate were Sumalatha Ambareesh, Sarmishta Sethi, Jaskaur Meena, Dimple Yadav, Sandhya Ray, Navneet Ravi Rana, Veena Devi, Sunita Duggal, S. Jothimani, Bhawana Gawali (Patil), Sangeeta Azad, Rajashree Mallick, Geeta Viswanath Vanga, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Dr. Beesetti Venkata Satyavathi, Ramya Haridas, Gomti Rai, Kavita Singh, Agatha K Sangma, Aparajita Sarangi, Shardaben Anilbhai Patel and Satabdi Roy.

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