The Opposition's two big queries -- why the implementation of women's quota is being delayed by tying it to census and delimitation -- were addressed in parliament by Union Home Minister Amit Shah today. The Delimitation Commission is the only body that can take call on which seats to reserve, he said, indicating that census data is the bedrock on which such decisions are taken. As for the alleged delay, the task of census and delimitation would begin after next year's general election, he added.
The government is trying to push through the bill to reserve 33 per cent seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies in the ongoing special session of Parliament. But the reservation can only be implemented after a census and delimitation exercise, which, under Article 82, can be conducted after 2026.
This pushes the time frame of the quota implementation to 2029 -- which has been questioned multiple parties.
"The Delimitation Commission is an important body for the poll process in the country," Mr Shah said during the debate on the bill in special session of parliament.
"If we are reserving one-third seats, then who will do it? If we do it, you will question it... If we reserve Wayanad or Hyderabad, you will say it is political," said the minister, addressing the Lok Sabha just after Congress's Rahul Gandhi, who had questioned why the government needs new census and new delimitation to implement quota for women.
"Wayanad" was a dig at Mr Gandhi, who represents the Kerala seat in Parliament.
"Two things seem strange. One, the idea that you need new census for this bill and new delimitation and I think this bill can be implemented today. I wonder this is not designed to push it forward by seven or eight years and let it play out the way it does," Mr Gandhi had said shortly before, echoing the views of many Opposition parties regarding the delay.
Therefore, Mr Shah said, it was better to hand over the job to the Delimitation Commission, which would also ensure transparency.
Mr Shah also took on Rahul Gandhi's comment that the bill in its current form is "incomplete" and that he wants OBC reservation included.
"Some people think secretaries run country, I think the government does; 85 BJP MPs, 29 ministers are from Other Backward Classes," Mr Shah said.
"Also, some people on social media are forming opinions, saying don't support the bill because there is no OBC, Muslim reservation and it needs delimitation. Even if you don't support, it won't come before 2029, at least begin the process," he added.