Rajiv Gandhi doesn’t deserve credit for 33% reservation for women in local bodies, Congress’ rhetoric on women empowerment is hollow and opportunistic

The parliament has failed to pass the women’s reservation bill in Lok Sabha since it was first introduced in 1996. Though there is a consensus among parties for reserving seats for women in Lok Sabha, they have been disagreeing over the details and the final shape of the bill. The Modi government has also not taken measures to arrive at a consensus on the topic even though the issue was mentioned in the first president’s address of NDA- II. Pranab Mukerjee, the then president had said

“My government recognizes the important role our women play in the development of our society and growth of the nation. It is committed to providing 33% reservation to them in Parliament and state legislative assemblies”

It is quite possible that the current government has put the bill on the back-burner to address problems in the economy and usher in macro economic reforms like GST. However, its commitment to women empowerment has been demonstrated by its handling of Triple Talaq issue. The fact that Modi appointed a woman defence minister also points out to the fact that he is ready to recognize and reward talented women.

Rajiv government didn’t pass the bill which gave 33% reservation for women in local bodies

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The Congress party’s women wing, All India Mahila Congress has been boasting about the Panchayati Raj bill that had been passed under Rajiv Gandhi as its great achievement in women’s empowerment.  However, the fact is, Rajiv Gandhi’s attempt to pass the bill had failed. He does not deserve credit for the 33% reservation for women in Panchayat and municipal bodies. The credit goes to PV Narasimha Rao under whom the constitutional amendments were passed.

The 73rd (Panchayat Raj) and 74th (Municipal Bodies) amendment bills were passed in 1992 under PV Narasimha Rao. The bill had reserved 33% of the seats for women in panchayats and urban local bodies. While it is true that the bill had brought in a change in women’s representation in politics, it is a half-hearted measure.

We are aware that Panchayats are not involved in lawmaking, nor do they have a say in how tax money is spent. They are completely at the mercy of state government and central government for funds. Hence, women did not get any real power through 73rd and 74th amendement.

The Congress missed a golden opportunity to pass women’s reservation bill in 1984

In the 8th Lok Sabha, the Congress party led by Rajiv Gandhi had 426 members in Lok Sabha. It also had 159 members in Rajya Sabha in 1984-86 (just short of 2/3rd majority). Why was this opportunity to pass the women’s reservation bill missed? It could have been easily done with this sort of brute majority. Instead, this brute majority was used to reverse the Shah Bano verdict in 1986 through the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986.

#ModiStallsWomen is a hollow hashtag

A party that ignored women’s rights when it had a brute majority in Parliament has no right to question the Modi government for not passing the women’s reservation bill. The Congress party has not furthered the cause women empowerment up to the expectations of people. It has used its mandate to subjugate women for the sake of vote bank politics in the case of Shah Bano verdict.

Thus, the Congress should correct its behaviour and work with the government in passing the Triple Talaq bill. The people of India will not believe its rhetoric on women empowerment untill and unless it adopts a constructive role on the issue.


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