A bill to ensure reservation of 33 per cent seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state legislatures was approved by the Union Cabinet this evening, sources told NDTV. The government has not yet made an official announcement and has skipped the usual briefing after the cabinet meeting.
The meeting generated a lot of interest due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comment earlier today that “historic decisions” will be taken during 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 could approve anything from reservations for women or other backward classes, “One Nation, One Election” and even a change in the name of the country.
There was hope for clarity after the meeting, but tension remained and the government skipped the usual briefing. Soon after, sources confirmed that the rumors about greenlighting the women’s reservation bill were justified.
Later in the evening, Jairam Ramesh, in-charge of Congress communications, posted on We welcome the reported decision of the Union Cabinet and await the details of the bill. This could very well have been discussed at the all-party meeting before the special session, and a consensus could have been reached instead of operating under a veil of secrecy.”
The bill, drafted in 2008, has been on hold since it was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010. It was never presented in the House of Representatives.
Though the BJP and Congress have always supported the bill, there have been hurdles in the form of opposition from other parties and demands for quotas for backward classes within the women’s quota.
Ahead of the Parliament session, opposition leaders had pushed for women’s reservation. This also applied to the Ajit Pawar faction of the Nationalist Congress Party. During the all-party meeting held on Sunday, the parties had strongly urged it.
The issue also came up during discussions on day one before the special session.
Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, while discussing ‘Parliamentary journey of 75 years starting from Samvidhan Sabha – achievements, experiences, memories and lessons’, pointed out the skewed gender ratio and said that Parliament consists of only 14 percent women and their share in legislative assemblies is only 10.
When the BJP criticized the Congress over the issue, there was a strong response from Supriya Sule of the Nationalist Congress Party, who said she wanted to “set the record straight”.
“India’s first woman president, Pratibha Patil, was from Congress, the country’s first woman prime minister, Indira Gandhi, was from Congress, and the first woman speaker, Meira Kumar, was from Congress,” she said.
“I would like to put on record one more thing that Rakesh Singh seems to have missed. The Women Reservation Bill was introduced by Congress but unfortunately we did not have the numbers and could not get it passed,” she added.