Rajat Sharma

Women welfare : Modi has a good track record

AKB30 I would like to praise all political parties for burying their differences and passing the landmark Women’s Reservation Bill in Lok Sabha almost unanimously. 454 MPs supported and only 2 MPs from AIMIM opposed. As Rajya Sabha took up this bill on Thursday, the path seems to be clear for near unanimity on the bill in both Houses of Parliament. It will then be up to the President to give her assent and it will become law. Reservations of seats for women in Parliament and state assemblies will take place only after the nationwide census and delimitation commission’s work are completed. In course of daylong debate in Lok Sabha, there was politics over giving reservation to women from Other Backward Classes and conducting a nationwide caste census. Sonia Gandhi, Dimple Yadav, Supriya Sule, Kanimozhi, took this line in their speeches. Rahul Gandhi demanded reservation for OBC women and a caste census. Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and other opposition leaders demanded why the government is not implementing women’s reservation immediately. Home Minister Amit Shah pointed out that delimitation of constituencies is a Constitutional process and Centre cannot intervene. He however assured that Modi government would not allow injustice to any section. It’s not that all political leaders gave unstinted support to the bill. Several leaders described this as an election gimmick, but Amit Shah replied to their concerns directly. He pointed out that the issue was hanging fire for the last 27 years and it was Modi’s government which has come forward to make a law. He promised a nationwide census next year, soon after Lok Sabha elections. Based on the census figures, the Delimitation Commission will then start its work. Opposition leaders, particularly those from the Congress, know that women’s reservation cannot be implemented immediately after it becomes law. The delimitation work cannot start before 2026. It is a compulsion for the government due to Constitutional requirements. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in his brief speech alleged that there were only three OBC secretaries among the 90 secretary level officials working at the Centre. He demanded caste census and alleged that the government is not giving power to other backward classes. Naturally, Rahul’s speech was meant with an eye on forthcoming elections. His aim was to attract the OBC vote banks. Amit Shah questioned Rahul Gandhi’s argument and pointed out that the country is run by the government and parliament, not bureaucrats. He gave figures about the number of BJP MPs, ministers and MLAs who belong to other backward classes. He alleged that the opposition was only shedding crocodile tears for OBCs. One must understand why opposition parties are demanding reservation for OBC women and a caste census. These parties have realized that it is difficult to defeat Modi on the development plank, on the issues of welfare schemes for poor. They cannot level charges of corruption against Modi. They cannot put Modi in a spot on the Hindu-Muslim issue. They have therefore taken up the caste issue. Opposition leaders have realized that OBCs constitute a formidable vote bank among voters across states. This is the reason why the demand for caste census is being made in order to incite backward class voters. It was Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who was the first to demand a caste census. The anti-Modi front has realized this caste arithmetic and has given the slogan ‘jiski jitni sankhya bhaari, utni uski bhagidari’ (give participartion as per numbers). Akhilesh Yadav has been harping on the PDA (Pichhda, Dalit, Alpasankhyak – OBC, Dalit, minorities) slogan. Congress has realized this, and it was because of this that Rahul and Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday demanded that a caste census be done. With all such ifs and buts, the bill was passed almost unanimously in Lok Sabha. No political party worth its name can afford to antagonize half the population. All the parties found it politically advantageous to back the bill. Though most of them alleged that Modi has brought the bill because of political objectives, it was left to Amit Shah to explain that Modi’s commitment to women welfare is not a new phenomenon. He disclosed, when Modi was working for the party, he got a resolution passed providing for one-third reservation for women in all office bearer posts. When Modi was chief minister of Gujarat, he used to auction all gifts every year, and spend the money on education of poor girls. The day Modi vacated the chief minister post, he donated his entire accumulated salaries for girls’ education. When he became PM, he launched a nationwide campaign for building toilets for women. This was to ensure security and health hygiene for women in rural areas. Modi then turned his attention to women facing eyesight problems due to smoke from wooden fuel in their kitchens. The Ujjwala LPG scheme was launched and millions of women were given free LPG connections. He launched the Jal Yojana so that women could get drinking water in their homes. Half their lives used to go waste in collecting water in villages. For Muslim women living a life of uncertainty and fear, he enacted the law to ban triple talaq. If one looks at his entire track record, the allegation against Modi that he brought the women’s reservation bill with an eye on elections does not hold water. It seems to be a weak argument. I want to reiterate that if any leader or party seeks votes in the name of public welfare, nobody should object. Women in India will get more share in governance with the passage of this bill. Their numbers in Parliament and state assemblies will increase. This is a historic step which needs to be welcomed.

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