In a historic move, the Narendra Modi government has cleared the Women’s Reservation bill in the Union Cabinet meeting on Monday and is set to bring it for passage in the special session of Parliament on Wednesday. This could mean 33% reservation for women in seats in Parliament and state legislative assemblies.
The bill is set to see smooth sailing in both Houses of Parliament with nearly all opposition parties in support, including the Congress, which has in fact been pressing the Modi government to pass the legislation in the special session.
But this change may not come from the 2024 Lok Sabha elections as delimitation could be done first in 2026 and then the changes could get rolled out later.
But will the Modi government’s bill be an upgraded and far more comprehensive version of the UPA’s draft legislation that was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010? It is believed that the Modi government could withdraw the 2010 bill as it has still not lapsed and will introduce a fresh one in this session of Parliament.
While things will only be clear once the final draft of the bill is made public, it is speculated that the Modi government may also aim to cover the Rajya Sabha and legislative councils under its ambit. The UPA bill only covered the Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies.
Also, the new bill may aim to cover the OBC community in the ambit of women’s reservation. The UPA bill had said that out of the seats reserved for SCs and STs, a third will be reserved for women. However, parties like the SP and RJD have been pressing that the same reservation should also include the OBCs. It remains to be seen if the Modi government has accommodated them.
The Modi government is expected to make a case that it has brought in a more comprehensive bill than the UPA and while the latter was able to get the bill passed in the Rajya Sabha, it had failed to even introduce the legislation in the Lok Sabha due to the opposition of its allies and even leaders within the Congress.