Women’s Reservation Bill A ‘Jumla, Betrayal…: Congress Slams Modi Govt For Delaying Legislation Till Next Census

New Delhi: The Congress on Tuesday termed as “election jumla” and “huge betrayal of hopes of women” the women’s reservation bill brought by the government, noting the Centre has stated that the reservation will be effective only after a Census and delimitation exercise is conducted post-enactment of the bill. Meeting a long-pending demand, the government on Tuesday introduced the Narishakti Vandan Adhiniyam to provide 33 per cent reservation to women in Lok Sabha and state assemblies. However, it is unlikely to be in force for the next Lok Sabha elections in 2024 as the reservation will come into effect only after a census and delimitation exercise are completed.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the party has always supported the women’s reservation bill. “In 2010, the Congress-UPA government got the women’s reservation bill passed in the Rajya Sabha. Just as SC-ST class has got a constitutional opportunity in politics, similarly everyone including women of OBC class should get equal opportunity through this bill,” Kharge said in a post in Hindi on X.

“There is a need to look carefully at the bill that the Modi government has brought today. In the current draft of the bill, it is written that it will be implemented only after decadal census and delimitation. This means, Modi government has probably closed the doors of women’s reservation till 2029. BJP should clarify on this,” he said.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said that in April 1942, Mahatma Gandhi famously said of the British offer of Indian independence after the end of World War II, that ‘it is a post-dated cheque drawn on a failing bank’. “This is an apt description of what the PM has called Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam 2023.” “Just a nice sounding name to a vague promise that may be fulfilled years later! What was the tearing hurry to do this in a Special Session if it was not to be implemented in 2024?” Ramesh said.

The reality is that the PM is going to be confronted with certain defeats in the coming state elections, he said.  “He’s grasping at straws to stop the ground slipping from beneath him,” Ramesh added. He wondered whether the Census and delimitation will be done before the 2024 elections, pointing out that the Narendra Modi government has not yet conducted the 2021 decadal Census.

In a post on X, Ramesh said, “In a season of election jumlas, this one is the biggest of them all! A huge betrayal of the hopes of crores of Indian women and girls.” “As we had pointed out earlier, Modi government has not yet conducted the 2021 Decadal Census making India the only country in G20 that has failed to carry out the Census. Now it says that the reservation for women will come into effect only following the first decadal Census conducted AFTER the Women’s Reservation Bill has become an Act. When will this Census take place?” Ramesh said.

The bill also says the reservation comes into effect only after the publication of the next Census and the subsequent delimitation exercise thereafter, he pointed out. “Basically the Bill gets the headlines today with a very vague promise of its implementation date. This is nothing but EVM – Event Management,” he said.

In another post, Ramesh said If the prime minister had any real intention to prioritise women empowerment, the women’s reservation bill would have been implemented immediately without the ifs and buts and all other conditions.  “For him and the BJP, this is only an election jumla that delivers nothing concrete,” he said. Senior Congress leader P Chidambaran  took a swipe at the government over the  bill introduced in the Lok Sabha, saying the proposed legislation is an “election jumla” and should be called ‘Nari Shakti Mockery Adhiniyam’.

In a post on X, Chidambaram said, “The Women’s Reservation Bill introduced today in the Lok Sabha is a typical example of BJP’s deceptive politics.” “The bill should be called by the name ‘Nari Shakti Mockery Adhiniyam (Bill)’,” the former Union minister said. The bill “mocks” the women of India and asks them to wait for the next census, he claimed.

“It further mocks the women of India and asks them, after the census, to wait for the delimitation of constituencies,” Chidambaram said. The government must have “reasoned” that the women of the country have been waiting since March 9, 2010, and hence, they can be asked to wait indefinitely, he said. “It is not a bill (Adhiniyam), it is an election jumla,” Chidambaram said.

Former law minister and senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily slammed the government, saying bringing the bill at the last minute, the BJP thinks they can get some political advantage.  “It has a social aspect, social justice to be given to 50 per cent of the population of the country, that kind of commitment is not demonstrated by the NDA and the BJP government,” he said.

“We could not get that type of cooperation from BJP (in 2010), they were not that willing even though we called them for a meeting to gather the momentum of consensus but we could not obtain it and that is why we could not get it passed in Lok Sabha and hence we did not introduce it in the Lok Sabha,” said Moily, who was the law minister when the bill was passed in Rajya Sabha.

“When the election is approaching, it is absolutely political. They don’t have legitimate interest in women as a class but they are only politically interested to gain power,” he alleged. Congress MP Manish Tewari said the bill introduced by the government is a “betrayal of the women’s movement”.

“The clause 334A says the reservation will come into effect post the first census that is conducted after the constitution amendment is passed and then the delimitation exercise which would follow that. So essentially it means that before 2029 there is going to be no women’s reservation,” he said.  If the government was serious about it, the government should have brought women’s reservation now,” Tewari said.

Congress’ social media department head Supriya Shrinate said, “Modi ji did not spare even the women of this country with his jumlas. Their (BJP) dubious intentions have became clear in the Women’s Reservation Bill.” “If you really wanted to ensure women’s participation, you would have brought the bill passed in the Rajya Sabha in 2010 to the Lok Sabha. This jumla for half of the population is not right,” Shrinate said.

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