THE proceedings of the two Houses of Parliament started in the new building on Ganesh Chaturthi with the introduction of the Narishakti Vandan Adhiniyam, a Bill providing for women’s reservation in the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies.
After a day-long debate the next day, the Government was able to secure a comfortable two-thirds majority needed to pass the Bill with 454 MPs voting in favour, while two opposed its passage. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was in the House when the voting took place, said the Government was committed to making this Bill into a law. The Government intent was clear. After the Bill’s passage in this session in the Rajya Sabha,
Tribute to women power
it will only need the President’s assent to come on statute book.
Significantly, despite sharp exchanges, there were no disruptions and all senior Opposition leaders had their say. Despite their reservations on the OBC quota and the timeline for the law’s enforcement, they voted in favour of the Bill.
The opposition did question why the Bill’s implementation was contingent upon the decennial census and the subsequent delimitation slated for 2029.
But Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal hit back, saying that it is was a technical query through which the opposition wants to stall its passage. “Section 8 and 9 of the Delimitation Act clearly mentions the distribution of seats, and Article 82 states that realignment is part of the delimitation process,” he said.
Thanking the members cutting across party lines, PM Modi assured members that empowerment was a matter of principle, not political weapon. He recalled how previous governments had failed to do so: “For that work of ensuring rights of women and putting their power to use and for many such noble works, God has chosen me.”
The draft of the Bill, which reserves onethird seats for women in all Indian legislative bodies with a quota for SC/ST, was approved by the Union Cabinet the night before the Bill was presented in the Lok Sabha.
Inarguably, this is a historic legislation in the Parliamentary history of India, especially in the backdrop of the failed attempts of the previous governments. The first attempt for women’s reservation was made in 1996 by the Deve Gowda-led United Front government.
In 1998, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government reintroduced the Bill in Lok Sabha. Failing to get support from other parties, his Government tried again in 1999, 2002 and 2003. In 2010, it was passed in the Rajya Sabha, but never taken up in the Lok Sabha and lapsed.