Women Reservation: No talk of OBC-Minority quota, not implementable before 2026

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-Sami Ahmad

New Delhi–The government introduced a constitutional amendment bill with much fanfare to reserve one-third of seats in Parliament and state legislatures for women but there is no mention of reservation within reservation for OBC and Minority women. This, observers say, will not serve the purpose of increasing women’s representation for social justice.

The second question being asked is about the date of implementation of this Bill. Law minister Arjun Meghwal introduced the Bill with a rider that it will come into effect after the delimitation exercise is completed and before that, the national census, which is due since 2021, is conducted. Therefore, it is unlikely to be in force before the next Lok Sabha election which is scheduled in 2024.

Since the new delimitation is scheduled to be held in 2026. So, if the Bill is passed from both the houses; Lok sabha and Rajya sabha, it will come into force not before 2026. This is the 128th Constitution Amendment Bill under the provision of Article 368. It will require ratification by at least 50% of the states.

The nomenclature of the bill for women’s reservation ‘the Nari Shakti Vandan Bill’ is being questioned by many as it sounds something unlike a democratic decision while Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed, “It seems that God has chosen me for this sacred task of empowering women.”

According to Law Minister Arjun Meghwal, the number of women members in Loksabha will rise to 181 from the current 82 after the election when this Bill is implemented.

Though the Bill is still far away from being implemented, there is a fight for taking credit for the same. Pramil Dandvate had brought this as a Private Member Bill in 1996 for the first time when H.D. Devegowda was the Prime Minister. Interestingly, many prominent personalities like Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh along with BJP leaders Amit Malviya and Tejasvi Surya had opposed the Bill. Now, they have no option but to support the Bill.

It was also opposed by the Samajwadi leaders but their reason for opposing the bill was different as they apprehended that the reservation for women will be grabbed only by upper caste and elite women.

This Bill mentions that there will be a quota for SC/ST within reserved seats. The reserved seats will be rotated after each delimitation exercise. It will be of great importance to see how the Lok Sabha seats take shape after the census and delimitation. It will affect not only the formation of a Lok Sabha seat but the number may also increase. Only after the result of the limitation we would be able to know what happens to the seats reserved for SC and ST.

The immediate reaction of RJD national vice president and former Chief Minister of Bihar Rabri Devi alleged that the Bill was a gimmick and its aim was just to make some noise. She referred to the fact that this will come into effect only after the delimitation to be done in 2026. She demanded that OBC and minority women should be provided in the quota for women.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar while welcoming the tabling of the Bill asked for two things. He demanded that there should be a reservation for OBC within the women’s reservation. He also demanded that since the caste census will be conducted, there should be a caste census along with it. He said that women would get benefit only when the caste census was done along with the general census.

All India Majis Ittehadul Mulsimeen (AIMIM) Chief Asaduddin Owaisi questioned the Bill saying, “The major flaw in this bill is that there is no quota for OBC and Muslim women and that is why we are against it.”

The AIMIM chief said, “When a law is being made, you (the government) need to ensure that there is representation of those who were deprived of it. Till now a total of 17 Lok Sabha elections have taken place in our country out of which 8,992 MPs have been elected. In this, there are only 520 Muslim MPs which is a deficit of 50%.”

While addressing media outside the Parliament, Owaisi raised the question “Who are you giving representation to?” He pleaded that those who didn’t have representation should be given representation.”

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