Women upliftment a matter of principle, not political tool: Amit Shah
The Union home minister said that parliamentarians are currently elected under three categories, general, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi see the “empowerment of women” as a “matter of principle” and not a “political tool”, Union home minister Amit Shah said in Parliament, as he sought to explain to the House on why reservation for women cannot be implemented in the 2024 election, reassure it about the likely timeline for implementation, and persuade it to pass the bill unanimously.
“Four times, women have been let down by Parliament,” Shah said. “I request that this time, the bill be passed unanimously.” He added that any issues with the legislation could be corrected later.
Shortly after his speech, in which he also addressed criticism from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi about the lack of representation of other backward classes or OBCs, the Lok Sabha passed the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam or the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty Sixth Amendment) Bill, 2023 that reserves 33% of the seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women.
With several legislators questioning the timeline for the law’s implementation, Shah said the process of conducting the census followed by a delimitation exercise would start soon after the 2024 elections, and explained why these needed to be carried out.
“How to decide 33% reserved seats without it? If we decide to reserve Wayanad (Gandhi’s constituency) for women, then you’ll say we are doing politics. Therefore, it is good that a quasi-judicial body does it through open hearings and transparency,” he added.
To be sure, a 2001 amendment to the Constitution freezes delimitation till after the first census after 2026, which means another constitutional amendment will be required if the government wants to launch the exercise soon after the 2024 election.
The home minister said that parliamentarians are currently elected under three categories, general, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. “We have reserved one-third of the seats for women in each of these categories,” he said.
Responding to Rahul Gandhi’s comment that only three of India’s 90 secretaries are from an OBC, Shah said that the government runs the country, not secretaries. Shah pointed out that his party have the country its first OBC Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and that 29% of the BJP’s MPs are from OBCs. The cabinet has 29 ministers who are from an OBC, he added, challenging Gandhi to do a comparison.
PM Modi put forth the tenet of women-led development at the G20 summit, Shah said, and the bill will now ensure that women “ not only become participants in policies, but also contribute to determining those policies.” In the course of his speech, Shah remembered that in his first speech after taking over as Prime Minister, Modi said that his would be a government of Dalits, backward classes, tribals, and women. The government has provided several benefits to 800 million poor people, he added, including houses, toilets, power, water, medicines, and food grains, and now, it is providing 33% reservation to women.