Union Home Minister Amit Shah ripped into the Congress (he did not name the party) after it attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party for "delays" in tabling the landmark women's reservation bill, which was presented by the Union Law Minister in Parliament today. The Congress had accused the BJP of dragging its feet over the bill in search of an image boost ahead of next year's election.
Mr Shah hailed the "unwavering commitment of the Modi government" and mocked the Congress for "friendly parties (that prevented)" the bill from being tabled. The bill was cleared by the Rajya Sabha in 2010 (when Manmohan Singh was PM) but it failed the Lok Sabha hurdle after the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Samajwadi Party opposed it. Both were (and are now) allies of the Congress.
"Across India people are rejoicing (at) introduction of the 'Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam' in Parliament. It shows unwavering commitment of the Modi government to empower women. Sadly, the opposition is unable to digest this," the union minister posted on X (formerly Twitter).
He also slammed the Congress for "tokenism" in relation to this issue. "What is more shameful... Congress has never been serious about women's reservation. Either they let legislations lapse or friendly parties prevented the bill from being tabled. Their double standards will never be hidden, whatever stunts they try to take credit," he said.
Congress Claims "Our" Bill'
The stage was set for the Congress' attacks this morning when ex-boss Sonia Gandhi told reporters, "It (the bill) is ours... apna hai." Since then several Congress leaders have taken pains to point out the bill was tabled in Parliament by the party-led United Progressive Alliance government 13 years ago.
Kapil Sibal, who quit the party in May last year in acrimonious circumstances, made the same point.
"They (the BJP) want a political advantage (for the 2024 election) and want to tell women they did a 'historic' thing. They should have done this in 2014 (when PM Modi first came to power)," he said.
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"What is so historic about this? There will be a census and delimitation before the bill is implemented. What if census and delimitation don't happen? They are just showing dreams to women - that they will get 'reservation' in 2029. They (the BJP) can't think anything other than politics," Mr Sibal said.
Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh condemned the bill as "election jumla" and a "huge betrayal of the hopes of crores of Indian women and girls". Mr Ramesh red-flagged the widely-reported delay in enforcement and said, "Basically it gets headlines today with a very vague promise of implementation."
History Of Women's Bill
In 2010, the bill passed the Rajya Sabha but the SP and the RJD stalled it in the Lok Sabha.
The two parties even withdrew support from the ruling UPA over demands for a quota for women from backward classes within the larger proposed 33 per cent reservation.
READ | History Of Women's Reservation Bill May Put INDIA Bloc Unity To Test
This time around too the SP and the RJD are allied (mostly) with the Congress; all three are part of the 28-member INDIA opposition bloc, and how they react to the bill will be a big test of the group's unity.
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"Making Fool Of Women" - AAP's Charge
The Congress wasn't the only party to call out the BJP over a law that is not likely to come into effect before the 2029 election. "Why have provisions of delimitation and census been included? This means women's reservation can't be implemented before the 2024 Lok Sabha election," AAP MLA Atishi said.
She accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of feigning interest in women's issues and said "a closer reading shows it is a 'Mahila Bewakoof Bana', or 'Make Fool of Women', bill".
"I Assure All Women": PM Modi
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha earlier today, the Prime Minister "assured" all women his government remains "committed to making this bill a law". In his first address in the Lok Sabha, the Prime Minister declared, "The bill was tabled multiple times... (now) God has chosen me for this pious task."
The Prime Minister had earlier also said passing the bill - tabled today by Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal - will be an "agni pareeksha", or trial by fire, for MPs.