Rahul Gandhi is the Congress' Lok Sabha MP from Kerala's Wayanad.
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi spoke of an "incomplete" women's reservation bill as he joined a day-long discussion of the landmark debate on the proposed law. Mr Gandhi picked up where ex-party boss Sonia Gandhi and other opposition women leaders left off and also called for reservation (within the proposed 33 per cent) for women from other backward classes, or OBCs.
The Congress leader acknowledged the bill as an "important step for the women of our country" but, like other opposition leaders, questioned provisions that mandate a delimitation and census before implementation, meaning the bill it will not come into effect before the 2029 election.
"I stand in support of the women's reservation bill. This is a very important step for the women of our country. They are as capable as any man and, in many ways, more capable. (But) there is one thing, in my view, that makes this bill incomplete. I want OBC reservation included."
"A large chunk of India's women should have access to this bill."
Mr Gandhi also reiterated Mrs Gandhi's push for a caste census - a demand backed by the INDIA opposition bloc after a meeting in Delhi this month - which is linked to the opposition's demand for reservation for women from OBC communities.
"There are 90 Secretaries in the Government of India. How many come from OBC communities? I want to answer this... was shocked and shattered... Only three. Only a caste census can give the answer to the number of OBCs, Dalits and Adivasis in the country. I have a suggestion for the government. Pass the bill (and) get the caste census done... if you are not doing it, we will do it."
He also referred to the Congress' move for a constitutional amendment for participation of women in local bodies like panchayats, calling it a "huge step" and flagging the 33 per cent reservation bill as another major step forward for women's representation and rights.
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Earlier Sonia Gandhi stuck an emotive note on this topic, remembering her husband, the late former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and calling today's bill the unfulfilled half of his dream.
Mr Gandhi continued, "Two things seem strange. One, the idea you need a new census and new delimitation (for this bill). Two, I think this bill can be implemented today. I wonder (if) this is not designed to push it (the bill) forward by seven-eight years and let it play out the way it does."
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The government's women's reservation bill was welcomed, in principle, by the opposition but a huge row has broken out over a clause that says it needs a new delimitation, or redrawing of constituencies, and a national census to come into effect. The next census is not till 2027.
Mr Gandhi also took a swipe at the Bharatiya Janata Party after it and the opposition swapped accusations of failing to respect women, noting President Droupadi Murmu - the formal head of the government - had not been invited to the opening of the new Parliament - a "nice, tasteful building".
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"The President is a woman... from a tribal community. It would have been befitting to have her visible in the transfer to the new Parliament building," the Congress leader said. Parliamentarians shifted to the new building on Tuesday in a solemn march led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.