Govt tales Women’s Reservation Bill: Oppn calls it ‘election jumla”

New Delhi: The opposition on Tuesday termed as an “election jumla” the women’s reservation bill brought by the government with many leaders raising questions over the proposed legislation, contending it doesn’t account for reservation for OBC communities and that it will be effective at the earliest by the 2029 Lok Sabha polls.

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.

Calling the bill an “election jumla” and “huge betrayal of hopes of women”, the Congress said that according to the Centre, the reservation will be effective only after census and delimitation exercise are conducted post-enactment of the bill.

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.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah slammed the opposition, particularly the Congress, for showing only “tokenism” on the bill and said the party has never been serious about women’s reservation in legislative bodies.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh 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, Congress general secretary 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.” Congress general secretary organisation K C Venugopal said unlike the UPA’s women’s reservation bill that immediately gave women 33 per cent reservation, the NDA’s women’s reservation will kick-in only after a census and delimitation process.

“At the earliest, this will kick in for the 2029 elections. If it isn’t applicable immediately, this is just another headline management stunt by the Modi government. Further, the Bill doesn’t account for reservation for women from OBC communities. Without that, it is incomplete in its social justice agenda,” Venugopal said on X.

“The government should ensure that along with women’s reservation, representation of India’s backward communities is also guaranteed,” he said.

Former law minister and senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily slammed the government, saying bringing the bill at the last minute, the BJP thinks they can get some political advantage.

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.

Another ex-law minister Kapil Sibal alleged that the bill was “yet another dream” being sold by Prime Minister Modi for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and claimed that its benefits would accrue to women only in 2029.

RJD spokesperson and MP Manoj Jha noted that the Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad Yadav has long sought “quota within quota” for the SCs, STs and OBCs in reserved seats for women. Without this, this serves no purpose, he said.

He said it is not clear if the women quota under the Narishakti Vandan Adhiniyam will come into force from 2029 or 2034 Lok Sabha polls, wondering if the government is serious or committing a “fraud”. It’s a “post-dated commitment” by a government which has lost its credibility, Jha alleged.

While welcoming the bill, JD(U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said it should provide for reservation for women from backward classes and called for early completion of the census exercise.

The JD(U) sought to take credit for the bill with party spokesperson Rajib Ranjan, saying Kumar has always supported the idea of 33 per cent reservation for women.

In Bihar, RJD leader and former chief minister Rabri Devi slammed the bill. She asserted that “quota within quota” was essential for the weaker sections of society “since it is only their first generation of women which is becoming educated and aware”.

She also alleged that the bill was “a gimmick, aimed just at making some noise” since the implementation was proposed only after a fresh round of delimitation.

Reacting to the development, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said reservation for women should be a balance of gender justice and social justice and demanded a clarity on share of backward, Dalit, minority, and tribals in the seats set aside.

In a post on X in Hindi, Yadav said, “Women’s reservation should be a balance of gender justice and social justice. In this, reservation for backward, Dalit, minority, tribal women should be clear in definite percentage form.” BSP supremo Mayawati said her party will support any bill that allows reservation for women in Parliament and other legislatures, even if the party’s demand for a quota for the SC, ST and OBC within that quota is not met.

BSP MP Danish Ali, however, slammed the government calling the bill another ‘jumla’.

“The country was hopeful that the Women’s reservation would be implemented, but it was again postponed in the name of census and delimitation. Half of the country’s population will no longer forgive this crude joke of the Modi government,” he said.

Senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Atishi alleged that the women’s reservation bill is a bill to befool women ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Addressing a press conference, Atishi alleged that the BJP is not interested in the wellbeing and welfare of women. “A closer reading of the provisions of the bill shows that it is ‘Mahila Bewakoof Banao’ bill,” she said.

AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi said the government should have also provided for reservation of Muslim and OBC.

TMC leader Derek O’Brien said, “Why is Mr Modi so eager to do these things so secretively? Why is he so desperate to steal credit.”