20 Sept 2023

What Is Way Forward For Nari Shakti Vandan Bill; Why Some Opposition Parties Have Hit Out At Centre?

New Delhi: The Central Government has introduced the Nari Shakti Vandan or Women's Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha during the special session of the Parliament on Tuesday and debate on the bill is likely today on Wednesday.

The cabinet had approved this bill on Monday. According to the provisions of the bill, women will have 33 percent share in the existing SC-ST reservation in the Lok Sabha or state assemblies.

The bill that the government has brought is different from the old bill, hence it will have to be passed by both the houses i.e. Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, apart from this, it will become law only after it is passed by the assemblies of half the states.

In 2010, during the tenure of the UPA government, this bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha, but at that time it could not be passed by the Lok Sabha.

UPA's allies had opposed Bill in 2010

At that time, Sonia Gandhi was a supporter of the Women's Reservation Bill, but she did not want to weaken the government by angering UPA's allies, so this bill was not emphasized at that time.

Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav, allies in the UPA government, were not in support of the bill.

At present there are 82 women MPs in the Lok Sabha. This law will apply to those MPs or MLAs who are directly elected by the public by voting. This reservation will not apply to the upper house of the Parliament i.e. Rajya Sabha or Legislative Councils.

Besides, reservation on Lok Sabha or Assembly seats will also be on rotation basis and seats reserved for women can be changed after every delimitation.

Many political parties and leaders had opposed women reservation in past

The Women's Reservation Bill has been waiting to be passed for the last 27 years. Many political parties have been opposing women's reservation in Parliament and Assembly.

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad Yadav and Samajwadi Party leader late Mulayam Singh Yadav had openly opposed such reservation.

BJP leaders have also not lagged behind in this matter. Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has shared two old tweets of BJP IT Cell chief Amit Malviya, in which Amit Malviya is opposing women's reservation.

At the same time, in the year 2010 Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had also insisted on discussions at several levels before giving reservation to women.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has demanded passing of the Women's Reservation Bill several times in the last few years. Before the 2019 elections, Rahul Gandhi had promised that if his government is formed, he would be the first to pass the Women's Reservation Bill.

Will RJD and SP now accept reservation to women?

Reservation to women can trouble many political parties and leaders. Among such parties, the opposition 'India' alliance partners RJD and SP are also there who have been opposing women's reservation. 

This also raises the question whether this issue can create divisions in the India alliance? But some political observers believe that RJD and SP etc. will now see it in a larger scope and accept it. This is also the demand of time.

In the year 2010, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Yadav had spoken against it, due to which this bill could not be passed. But some analysts believe that now Akhilesh Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav will not oppose the bill as this could give them anti-woman image.

However, RJD is still firm on its stand. RJD MP Manoj Jha says, “If the government's intention is clear, then the rights of anyone should not be curtailed. We want quota within quota for Scheduled Castes, Tribes and Other Backward Classes."

Parties like RJD are likely to continue to demand reservation within this reservation and Congress will also demand it quietly because it too is now moving towards the politics of backward classes, but it is not likely impact 'India' alliance.

In response to the question of journalists on the issue of Women's Reservation Bill, Sonia Gandhi said that it is ours. That is, Congress is claiming this bill as its own, while BJP and many other parties are also trying to take credit for it.

AAP, other Opposition parties hit out at Centre

Meanwhile, the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party and several other Opposition parties on Tuesday hit out at the Centre over the Bill. AAP's Atishi said the bill was to fool women voters ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, while the Congress said women would not get the benefits of the proposed legislation anytime soon.

The Congress said, “This bill was definitely introduced today, but the women of our country do not seem to be getting its benefits soon.”

The Congress said that the bill will come into effect after census and delimitation exercises are done, adding that “there is no information as to when this census will be held.”

 AAP’s demand is that the government should make amendments to the proposed legislation and provide one-third reservation for women from the 2024 polls itself, Atishi said.

Atishi added, “We support women's reservation in principle. But this bill is sheer hypocrisy. This bill is a way to fool women.”

Major flaw” in the bill: Owaisi 

Meanwhile, voicing his objection to the proposed legislation, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said that there was a “major flaw” in the bill as it did not provide quota for Muslim women.

"...Who are you giving representation to? Those who don't have representation should be given representation. The major flaw in this bill is that there is no quota for Muslim women and so we are against it," Asaduddin Owaisi said.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav also said that the bill should have a balance of gender justice and social justice.

“In this bill, reservations for backward, Dalit, minority, and tribal (PDA) women should be clearly stated in definite percentage form,” Akhilesh Yadav said.

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