A bill to ensure the reservation of 33 per cent seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies was cleared by the Union cabinet this evening, sources told NDTV. The government is yet to make an official announcement and skipped the customary briefing after the cabinet meet.
The meeting had spiked interest in view of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comment earlier today that “historic decisions” will be taken in this special session.
A few key meetings held earlier added to the expectations — Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi met Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP chief JP Nadda.
There was speculation that the cabinet may clear anything from reservation for women or Other Backward Classes, “One Nation One Election” and even a change of the country’s name.
There were hopes of clarity after the meet, but the suspense continued with the government skipping the customary briefing. Shortly after, sources confirmed that the buzz about green-lighting the women’s reservation bill was spot on.
Later in the evening, Congress’s communications in-charge Jairam Ramesh posted on X: “It’s been a long-standing demand of the Congress party to implement women’s reservation. We welcome the reported decision of the Union Cabinet and await the details of the Bill. This could have very well been discussed in the all-party meeting before the Special Session, and consensus could have been built instead of operating under a veil of secrecy”.
The bill, drawn up in 2008, has been on freeze since it was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010. It was never presented in the lower house.
Though the BJP and the Congress have always supported the bill, there was hurdles in form of opposition by other parties and demands for quota for backward classes within the women’s quota.
Ahead of Parliament session, leaders from the Opposition had pushed for women’s reservation. So did the Ajit Pawar faction of the Nationalist Congress Party. The parties had made a strong push for it at the all-party meeting held on Sunday.
The matter was also raised during Day One’s proceedings for the Special session.
Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, speaking at the discussion on ‘Parliamentary Journey of 75 years Starting from Samvidhan Sabha – Achievements, Experiences, Memories And Learnings”, pointed to the skewed gender ratio, saying parliament has only 14 per cent women, and their percentage in legislative assemblies is just 10.
When the BJP slammed the Congress over the issue, a strong retort came from Nationalist Congress Party’s Supriya Sule, who said she would like to “set the record straight”.
“The first woman president of India, Pratibha Patil, was from the Congress, the first woman PM of the country, Indira Gandhi, was from the Congress, the first woman speaker, Meira Kumar, was from the Congress,” she said.
“I would like to put one more thing on record which Rakesh Singh seems to have missed out. The Women’s Reservation Bill was brought by the Congress, unfortunately we did not have the numbers and we could not get it passed,” she added.