Last Updated: September 18, 2023, 23:07 IST
In a historic move, the Narendra Modi government has cleared the Women’s Reservation bill in the Union Cabinet meeting on Monday and is set to bring it for passage in the special session of Parliament on Wednesday. This could mean 33% reservation for women in seats in Parliament and state legislative assemblies.
The bill is set to see smooth sailing in both Houses of Parliament with nearly all opposition parties in support, including the Congress, which has in fact been pressing the Modi government to pass the legislation in the special session. This could be a major change for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections as well.
But will the Modi government’s bill be an upgraded and far more comprehensive version of the UPA’s draft legislation that was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010? It is believed that the Modi government could withdraw the 2010 bill as it has still not lapsed and will introduce a fresh one in this session of Parliament.
While things will only be clear once the final draft of the bill is made public, it is speculated that the Modi government may also aim to cover the Rajya Sabha and legislative councils under its ambit. The UPA bill only covered the Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies.
Also, the new bill may aim to cover the OBC community in the ambit of women’s reservation. The UPA bill had said that out of the seats reserved for SCs and STs, a third will be reserved for women. However, parties like the SP and RJD have been pressing that the same reservation should also include the OBCs. It remains to be seen if the Modi government has accommodated them.
The Modi government is expected to make a case that it has brought in a more comprehensive bill than the UPA and while the latter was able to get the bill passed in the Rajya Sabha, it had failed to even introduce the legislation in the Lok Sabha due to the opposition of its allies and even leaders within the Congress.
The Modi government would argue that it has instead consulted all political parties and brought the bill with far more consensus, with all political parties asking the government to introduce the bill in the current special session itself. The bill could, hence, be the legacy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in recognising the importance of women in Indian politics at the highest level.
Modi had earlier in the day before Parliament began said the session would see “historic decisions”. During his speech, he recounted how women had contributed to Parliament and nearly 600 women MPs had been members of both Houses of Parliament out of over 7,500 members in all.
Presently, women constitute about 15% of total Lok Sabha MPs, which is the highest-ever proportion of women in the Lower House.