Rename quota bill women’s reservation rescheduling bill: Mahua Moitra
Trinamool Congress lawmaker Mahua Moitra asked if there could be a “greater Jumla [empty promise]” with the introduction of the bill six months before the national polls
Trinamool Congress (TMC) lawmaker Mahua Moitra on Wednesday hit out at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s “doublespeak” while questioning the absence of a clear timeline for the implementation of the landmark legislation for reserving a third of seats in Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women.
The quota bill, Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, was tabled in Lok Sabha on Tuesday. The Opposition has criticised the lack of a timeline for its implementation. The bill says 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 has been delayed.
Moitra, who is known for her fiery parliamentary speeches and interventions, supported the bill in Lok Sabha but emphasised that the government’s agenda was to only delay its implementation since the census and delimitation exercise was indeterminate. “...the bill says the reservation shall come into effect only after delimitation has been undertaken...delimitation will only be undertaken after the relevant figures for the next census have been published.”
She questioned what does this mean. “In true BJP’s doublespeak style, it means that we do not know actually if and actually when we will have 33% of women sitting in the Lok Sabha because the date of the next census is entirely indeterminate...the date of the next delimitation exercise is therefore double indeterminate. Women’s reservation is dependent on two totally indeterminate days,” said Moitra, a first-time Parliament member, who hit the headlines with her first speech in the Lok Sabha in 2019 by delivering a stinging critique of the government.
Moitra asked if there could be a “greater Jumla [empty promise]” with the introduction of the bill six months before the national polls. She said the bill should be renamed the women’s reservation rescheduling bill. She questioned the timing of the introduction of the bill. “Its agenda is delay; it a sham.”
She said it is both her pride and shame that she stands in the Indian Parliament speaking on the reservation bill. “It is my pride that I belong to the TMC that has sent 37% of women among its Parliament members...it is my chagrin that I belong to a Lok Sabha that on aggregate only has 15% of the women members... far below the global average of 26.5% and also below the Asian regional average of 21%.”
She praised TMC leader Mamata Banerjee for pushing for more women representation while crediting the West Bengal chief minister for the higher proportion of women among their party’s lawmakers. “What has this government brought?”
Moitra said it seemed Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “ordained to perform many important tasks for the country including this one [reservation bill]” with much fanfare. “As this government pats itself on the back...let us also hang our heads in disgrace that India ranks 140th among 196 countries in...women’s [parliamentary] representation. Among women parliamentarians, Muslims and Dalits have been consistently underrepresented.”
She said from 1952 to 2004, only eight Muslim women were elected to Lok Sabha. “In today’s Lok Sabha, there are only two Muslim members; both from West Bengal and TMC. The numbers for male and female turnout in the last general elections was nearly the same...66.7% and 66.8%...but women’s candidature remained at an abysmal 9% up from only 7% in 2004.”