Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday pushed for early passage of the women’s reservation bill in Parliament, with the subject finding resonance among lawmakers on International Women’s Day.
Gandhi said the NDA government’s “maximum governance” philosophy also means “giving us women, our legitimate due”, a demand that was endorsed by female lawmakers in both Houses across party lines.
The long-pending bill that would amend the Constitution aims to reserve a third of the seats in Parliament and state legislatures for women.
“Maximum governance is more than just accelerated pace of economic growth. It is also expanding the base of disagreement without inviting retribution or retaliation,” the Congress chief said. “Surely, maximum governance does not mean to have double standards in dealing with women’s rights.”
Experts say among hundreds of women’s issues that need to be addressed in India, an important one is to ensure that they have a voice in the highest seats of power.
At a conference of female legislators in Delhi on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi avoided any mention of the quota legislation. The government has refused to set a time frame for bringing a fresh bill, insisting that consensus among political parties is needed for its passage.
Criticising the move by some BJP-ruled states such as Haryana and Rajasthan to set minimum educational qualifications for fighting panchayat polls, Gandhi said it denies “for no fault of theirs” a large number of rural women from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes their constitutional rights.
“This compels our urgent legislative attention,” she said.
The Rajya Sabha passed the women’s quota bill when the UPA was in power in March 2010 amid high drama that saw marshals evicting unruly members. However, the bill lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha in accordance with parliamentary rules.
Gandhi said the Congress gave the country its first female Prime Minister, first female President and first female Speaker. She pointed out that because of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s vision women comprise over 40% of elected local body and panchayat posts in the country.
Parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the government is trying to evolve consensus on the bill and expressed hope that it would succeed soon.