Women’s Reservation Bill: Sonia Gandhi says it’s ours as Congress seeks credit
The Women’s Reservation Bill was cleared in the Rajya Sabha in 2010 amid a ruckus when Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was in power
Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday called the Women’s Reservation Bill “ours” hours after the Union Cabinet on Monday approved a proposed Constitution amendment to provide quota for women in parliament and state legislatures. The approval paved the way for the introduction of the landmark legislation in the ongoing special session of Parliament.
“It is ours. Woh hamara bill hai [It is our bill],” Gandhi said as arrived in the Parliament on Tuesday.
The Congress has sought to take credit for the Women’s Reservation Bill, which was cleared in the Rajya Sabha in 2010 amid a ruckus. The then Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government did not push the bill in Lok Sabha as its allies such as Rashtriya Janata Dal and Samajwadi Party demanded a quota for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes within the quota.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh separately reposted on social media platform X party colleague Rahul Gandhi’s letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018 offering unconditional support for the passage of the bill. “Our PM [Prime Minister] says he’s a crusader for women’s empowerment? Time for him to rise above party politics, walk-his-talk & have the Women’s Reservation Bill passed by Parliament. The Congress offers him its unconditional support,” Rahul Gandhi wrote.
Ramesh argued that then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi first introduced Constitution amendment bills for one-third reservation for women in panchayats and nagarpalikas (city councils) in May 1989 but they could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha.
“Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao reintroduced Constitution Amendment Bills for one-third reservation for women in panchayats and nagarpalikas in April 1993. Both Bills passed and became law. Now there are more than 15 lakh [1.5 million] elected women representatives in panchayats and nagarpalikas. This comes to about 40%,” he wrote on X.
“As PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh brought Constitution Amendment Bill for one-third reservation for women in Parliament and state legislatures. Bill passed on March 9, 2010 in the Rajya Sabha. But it was not taken up in Lok Sabha. Bills introduced/ passed in Rajya Sabha do not lapse. Women’s Reservation Bill is still very much active.”
He said the Congress has for the past nine years been demanding that the Women’s Reservation Bill should now get passed by the Lok Sabha as well.
The Congress Working Committee, which met in Hyderabad over the weekend, demanded that the bill be passed during the ongoing special session.
Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien said while others waited for the bill to come, their party chief Mamata Banerjee gave more than 40% of seats to women to set an example.
The contours of the new bill are not known yet. They are unlikely to be identical to the last iteration of the bill. The new bill is expected to expand the scope of reservation beyond the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.
In the 2010 bill, there was also no provision for subcategories of castes within the women’s quota. The demand for increasing the representation of women in legislatures through quotas has proved a politically and legally fraught process over the last three decades.