September 30, 2023

New Delhi:

Reports of the Women’s Reservation Bill being cleared by the Union cabinet has been welcomed by the Congress, which had started the initiative to increase the space for women in parliament. Today the party’s communications in-charge Jairam Ramesh not only posted a history of the bill on X, formerly Twitter, he also re-posted a 2018 letter from Rahul Gandhi to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which is now being widely circulated.

The UPA government had drafted the bill in 2008, but it was on freeze after being passed by the Upper House two year later. Though the BJP and the Congress have always supported the bill, there was hurdles in the form of opposition by other parties and demands for quota for backward classes within the women’s quota.

Mr Gandhi’s tweet, dated July 16, 2018, read: “Our PM 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.”

In the letter, he pointed out that the bill was passed in the Upper House with BJP support and was called “historic and momentous” by late Union minister Arun Jaitley, who was then the leader of the Opposition. “On the issue of empowering women, let us stand together, rise above party politics and send India a message that we believe the time for change has come,” he had added.

Ahead of the Parliament session, there was a huge buzz about the government backing the bill, and leaders from the Opposition pushing for women’s reservation.

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 among elected representatives, saying parliament has only 14 per cent women, and their number in legislative assemblies is just 10 per cent.

Later in the evening, Mr Ramesh posted on X, formerly Twitter: “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 government had made no announcement about its discussions at this evening’s cabinet meeting. It even skipped the traditional media briefing after the meet, pushing up the suspense quotient. Later, sources said the women’s quota bill has been given a go-ahead from the cabinet.

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