On Women's Reservation Bill, M Kharge Quotes Kabir's Iconic Couplet To BJP

"Amendment of this bill is not difficult... you (the government) can do this now but have postponed it till 2031. What does this mean?" Mr Kharge said.

Mallikarjun Kharge is a Congress MP and the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

New Delhi:

The Rajya Sabha was 'alive with the sound of poetry' Thursday after Congress boss Mallikarjun Kharge quoted Kabir's iconic 'kaal kare so aaj kar' couplet to attack the Bharatiya Janata Party over delays in implementing the women's reservation bill, which sailed through the Lok Sabha last night.

Mr Kharge called on the government to amend the bill and allow 33 per cent of seats in the Lower House and state legislatures to be reserved for women in time for the 2024 election. At present the bill requires a census and a delimitation - neither likely before 2029 - before it comes into effect.

"Amendment of this bill is not difficult... you (the government) can do this now but have postponed it till 2031. What does this mean?" Mr Kharge said, demanding to know "When reservations (for women) can take place for panchayat polls and zilla panchayat polls, why not this also for women?"

"Do it today... I will tell you Kabir's poem - 'kaal kare so aaj kar, aaj kare so ab...' (Whatever you have to do tomorrow, do it today. Whatever you have to do today, do it now)," he shouted above the ruckus as Rajya Sabha Chairperson Jagdeep Dhankhar grinned and gestured to him to take his seat.

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Mr Dhankhar then invited the BJP chief, JP Nadda, to respond.

The Congress leader, though, was not done and continued to press the government to amend the women's quota bill and ensure its immediate implementation. "This is why you should do this now... do it today, we are ready. It is not illegal... nothing," Mr Kharge insisted to the Chair.

The ruckus prompted a now-not-grinning Mr Dhankhar to grab his microphone (turn down Mr Nadda's demands to speak immediately) and call for peace. "Honourable members... we are the Upper House... a house of elders...," he said, after which he then allowed the BJP MP to speak.

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"I want to make one thing clear... BJP's intention (regarding delayed implementation of the bill)... it is not to score points or get political advantage. We want to implement this bill for women... but we want to do it the right way... by following the Constitution!" Mr Nadda retorted

The Kharge-Nadda face-off underlines the government-vs-opposition gulf on this bill. 

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The government insists any delay in implementation is to ensure transparency in deciding seats to be reserved for women, and the only way to do this is to hold a census and then allow the delimitation panel to select seats to which parties can only field women candidates.

Responding to the opposition's fierce attacks in the Lok Sabha, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said, "Delimitation Commission is an important body for poll process in the country. If we are reserving one-third seats... who will do it? If we do it, you (the opposition) will question it..."

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The opposition, however, insists that the provisions are a way to allow the BJP to gain political mileage and votes ahead of elections this year and the next without committing itself to the law.

The opposition has also questioned the timing of this bill, which has been tabled in a special convened five-day session of Parliament called just months before the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

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Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said on Wednesday, "... the idea that you need a new census for this bill and a new delimitation (seems strange). I think this bill can be implemented today."

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"I wonder (if) this (the census and delimitation requirements) is not designed to push it (implementation of the bill) forward by seven or eight years and let it play out the way it does."