The Union Cabinet cleared the women’s reservation Bill in its meeting late Monday evening.
“Only the Modi government had the moral courage to fulfil the demand for women’s reservation, which was proved by the approval of the Cabinet. Congratulations PM Narendra Modi and congratulations to the PM Modi government,” tweeted Prahlad Singh Patel, minister of state for food processing industries.
The Bill — to reserve at least a third of the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly seats — could become the first one to be introduced in the new Parliament building, where proceedings will take place from Tuesday onwards.
Earlier, government sources said the Union Cabinet meeting, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired, had approved the Bill.
Sources were tight-lipped on whether the Bill envisaged “reservation within reservation” for women from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes. Sources said the reservation for women could initially be proposed for 15 years, and the seats reserved could be rotated every five years.
Earlier in the day, while addressing the media ahead of the session, the Prime Minister said this Parliament session might be of a short duration but was big on occasion, and was of “historic decisions”.
In his remarks in the Lok Sabha on the discussion on 75 years of Parliament, Modi said the number of women representatives was negligible but had increased gradually over the years.
He said of the 7,500 parliamentarians to have contributed to the proceedings of the two houses in the past seven decades, 600 were women.
At least since 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has believed, and exit polls have shown, the party under Modi has received proportionately higher support from women. Over the past decade, the turnout of women voters was better than that of men in at least 16 states. In 10 states, the female electorate was greater than the male.
It also remains to be seen if the INDIA bloc of parties would remain united on the issue since the Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (United) and other “social justice parties” fear that upper-caste women might monopolise the reservations for women, and had demanded “reservation within reservation”, while the Congress doesn’t.
The first Lok Sabha had 4.4 per cent women MPs and the current one has 15 per cent. A Bill on reserving a third of the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly seats for women was first introduced in 1996, but couldn’t be passed. The Rajya Sabha passed a similar Bill in 2010, but the UPA government lacked the majority to ensure its passage in the Lok Sabha.
The Union Cabinet met after the first sitting of the special session of Parliament. Apart from the PM, Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah, Piyush Goyal, Pralhad Joshi, S Jaishankar, Nirmala Sitharaman, Dharmendra Pradhan, Nitin Gadkari and Arjun Ram Meghwal were some of the other attendees. At the time of the Union Cabinet meeting, BJP chief J P Nadda also met party leaders, instructing them to reach the Parliament House premises with women supporters of the BJP.
During Monday’s discussion in Parliament and at Sunday’s all-party meeting, Opposition as well MPs of the parties allied to the BJP demanded the introduction of the women’s reservation Bills.
The government has also indicated it may not push the passage of the Bill on appointing the chief election commissioner (CEC) and election commissioners in the five-day session of Parliament, which began Monday. The Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal on August 10, and listed in the parliamentary bulletin that the government released on Wednesday.
Some former CECs, including N Gopalaswamy, V S Sampat and S Y Quraishi, had on Saturday written to the Prime Minister, opposing the provision to place the CEC and the EC in the rank of cabinet secretary. Currently, Election Commission members are equivalent to judges of the Supreme Court.