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Rahul Gandhi, in letter to PM Narenda Modi, offers unconditional support on women’s bill

In a Twitter post, Congress president Rahul Gandhi shared his letter to PM Modi in which the party said it would unconditionally support the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament.

india Updated: Jul 16, 2018 22:43 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Congress,Rahul Gandhi,PM Modi
Congress president Rahul Gandhi (File Photo)

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Monday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to ensure the passage of the women’s reservation bill in the monsoon session of Parliament, which begins on Wednesday.

In his letter, Rahul said that while the Congress has been unwavering in its commitment to the bill, the BJP appears to have had second thoughts even though this was one of its key promises in its 2014 manifesto.

The Congress president also offered his party’s unconditional support to the bill and insisted that the time has come for a change, and for women to take their rightful place, in state legislatures and Parliament.

The Rajya Sabha had on March 9, 2010, passed the bill that sought to give 33% reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

Introduced by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in May 2008, the Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha amid high drama that saw use of marshals to evict some protesting members.

It was supported by the BJP but the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Samajwadi Party opposed the bill. While the Trinamool Congress stayed away from voting, the Bahujan Samaj Party walked out of the House before the bill was put to vote on the ground that its amendments were not included in the proposed legislation.

Since then, Rahul said the bill has been stalled in the Lok Sabha on one pretext or the other for over eight years now.

“Mr Prime Minister, in many of your public rallies you have spoken about your passion for empowering women and involving them more meaningfully in public life. What better way to demonstrate your commitment to the cause of women, than by offering your unconditional support to the passage of the women’s reservation bill?” Gandhi wrote.

“And what better time, than the upcoming session of Parliament? Any further delay will make it impossible to implement before the next general elections.”

Rahul’s mother and the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi had also written a letter to Prime Minister Modi in September last year, urging him to take advantage of his party’s majority in the Lok Sabha to clear the bill.

The bill lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2014 as it was not cleared by the Lower House in time. As per the rule, any bill pending in the Lok Sabha lapses with the dissolution of the House. Bills pending in the Rajya Sabha, however, remain alive for all the time since the Upper House is a permanent body and can’t be dissolved.

The bill will now need to be brought back in the Lok Sabha as well as the Rajya Sabha.

Senior BJP leader and Union minister Prakash Javadekar sought to know whether the Congress could ensure letters of support for the bill from its own allies. “This shows the double standard of Congress as it is in alliance with those who opposed the legislation,” he said. Javadekar maintained that the BJP had supported the bill when it was introduced during the Congress rule. “It is Congress which is sitting with those opposed to the bill. It is Congress which is in alliance with those who had opposed the Women’s Reservation Bill. So will now Congress come out of the alliance or will it get the letters of support from those parties?” he told reporters here.

Given that fact that the BJP and its allies have a majority in the Lok Sabha, Rahul said what is required for this landmark bill to become a reality is the Prime Minister’s support. “I am sure, it will not be withheld,” he wrote.

The BJP-led NDA can pass the bill on its own strength in the Lok Sabha but will need the support of others to pass it in the Rajya Sabha.

The Congress chief urged Modi to ensure that the bill gets passed in this session itself so that women can participate “more meaningfully” in the state elections later this year and in the Lok Sabha polls next year.

“On the issue of empowering our women, let us stand together, rise above party politics and send India a message that we believe the time for change has come. Women must take their rightful place in our state legislatures and in Parliament, where they are at present abysmally represented,” he said in his letter.

The Congress president later tweeted, “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.”

First Published: Jul 16, 2018 13:53 IST