Former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi will be her party’s lead speaker for the debate on Wednesday on the bill that seeks to reserve a third of seats in Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women amid a battle for credit for the landmark legislation.
Hours before the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam was tabled in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, Gandhi called it “our bill” when asked about it outside Parliament. The Congress was in power when the previous version of the bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha in 2010.
Amid pressure from allies seeking quota within quota for the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) women, the Congress-led government chose not to introduce the bill in Lok Sabha.
Gandhi has rarely spoken in the Parliament over the last few years. In March 2022, she spoke during the Budget Session and highlighted concerns over the misuse of social media and said it was being used to “hack democracy.” She also raised concerns on issues such as the cut in the allocation of funds for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam seeks to provide quotas for women within the existing quantum of seats set aside for SCs and STs. The reservation will come into effect after the redrawing of constituency boundaries which can only happen after 2026 following a census that was due in 2021 but was delayed due to the pandemic.
Congress and other Opposition parties have criticised the absence of a timeline for the implementation of the reservation. It alleged that the move was aimed at publicity and garnering eyeballs. “They do not give us credit but I want to bring to their notice that the Women Reservation Bill was already passed in 2010,” Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge said in Rajya Sabha.
Jairam Ramesh, Congress’s chief whip in the Rajya Sabha, cited the delay in the 2021 census and said the government now says that the reservation for women will come into effect only following the Census. “When will this census take place?”