In a strong push for the Women's Reservation Bill, which has been pending for decades, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has described its passage as an "agni pareeksha", or trial by fire, for MPs. The PM said this during the Cabinet meeting on Monday, where the bill was cleared, senior government officials have told NDTV.
The bill, which seeks to provide 33% reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies, will be introduced in Parliament by Union Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal on Tuesday.
The officials said the bill is expected to have a provision for reserving one-third of the seats reserved for women for SCs and STs. The demand for a quota within the quota is what had prevented the bill from clearing Parliament despite being passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010.
The earliest that the bill is likely to be implemented, the officials said, is in 2027, when the Census and delimitation exercises are expected to be complete. It is expected to have a provision for rotating the reserved seats for women after a certain period, as is done in the panchayat polls, where the reservation is already in effect.
A bill seeking to reserve 33% of seats for women was first moved by the Deve Gowda government in 1996. The UPA government then reintroduced the legislation, officially known as the Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Bill, in 2008.
The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010, but it was never introduced in the 15th Lok Sabha, and lapsed following its dissolution in 2014.
Government sources said the new legislation, which will be tabled on Tuesday, is different from the one that had been passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010, and so it will need to clear both Houses. "It is a constitutional amendment bill and will be called the Constitutional Amendment (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023," said a senior official.
While the BJP and the Congress have always supported the bill, it had been opposed by parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, which had demanded a quota within the quota for Dalits and backward classes. In the run-up to the special session, several parties, including the Congress, Bharat Rashtra Samithi and the Ajit Pawar faction of the Nationalist Congress Party had pushed for the introduction of the Women's Reservation Bill.
When she was asked about the bill while she was entering Parliament on Tuesday, former Congress President Sonia Gandhi said, "It is ours, apna hai".