Source: The Hitavada      Date: 23 Sep 2017 11:24:09

CONGRESS President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi has raised the issue of Women’s Bill with Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi. She has stressed the importance of having the Women’s Bill passed in Parliament on an urgent basis. Going one step ahead, Mrs. Gandhi has assured Mr. Modi that her party would lend full support to the Government for the passage of the Bill. This gesture by the Congress President may highlight the seriousness of the issue but also demonstrates the political mess that surrounds its passage.

However, the history of Women’s Bill is chequered, to say the least. This Bill came up in Parliament countless times, but was not passed. On most occasions, the nation never understood why its passage was blocked and what the obstacles in that procss were. Every political party, without exception, paid much lip service to the cause but for reasons never understandable to common man ensured that the Bill was not passed. Now, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi seems to have woken up suddenly from her slumber to write to the Prime Minister to initiate the process of Women’s Bill once again.

It is not difficult to assess the Prime Minister’s response. In all probabilities, Mr. Modi would agree with Mrs. Gandhi about the importance of the issue and may even initiate the process so that women’s participation in the governance process would be available at a minimum denominator of 30%. Of course, women’s representation in elected bodies is not the only point which the Women’s Bill was expected to make. There were other nuances as well to ensure a greater acceptance of women in public life. No matter those details, the Women’s Bill could never earn the Parliament’s nod in the past three decades.

The Congress President has urged the Prime Minister to ensure the Bill’s passage so that women get desired levels of reservation before the next General elections in 2019. This aspect may lead some people to suspect political agenda behind Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s communication. They may infer that she is looking at a political gain by raising this issue.

Factually, however, people in high places in the Government are engaged in serious confabulations on the issue and are brainstorming about the details of the new Bill to be introduced in Parliament soon. Thus, there are reasons to believe that Mrs. Gandhi wrote to the Prime Minister only after she got the wind of such developments in official circles, strengthening the suspicion that she had a hidden political agenda to press for the issue at this point in time.

On the issue of Women’s Bill, there is no single political party in the country to escape the blame for its blockage. In principle, all parties agreed to have 30% reservation for women in higher elected bodies. Yet, the Bill was never passed in Parliament. In order to assuage the hurt feelings of women in political arena, the parties agreed to introduce the reservation at local self government bodies, a practice that is in place for some years now.

This offering has not satisfied women in the country at all. They insist upon reservation at all levels without exception. Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s letter represents that thought, though her own party’s track record on the issue is dismal, to say the least. In fact, it was the Congress party that was instrumental in blocking the Bill’s path in Parliament. Once, the Lok Sabha had sat up to wee hours to pass the Women’s ill, which could not get through Rajya Sabha. Women Members of Parliament of all parties had come together on the issue, but could not influence their respective organisations to have the Women’s Bill passed. It is against this background that we view Mrs. Gandhi’s letter to Mr. Modi. History does not have great tales in this regard.