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PM says ‘Agni Pareeksha for MPs’

New Delhi:

Amid a strong push for the decades-pending Women’s Reservations Bill, Prime Minister Narendra Modi described its passage as a “agni pareeksha”, or trial by fire, for deputies. The Prime Minister said this during the Cabinet meeting on Monday, where the bill was approved, senior government officials told NDTV.

The bill, which seeks to provide 33 per cent reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies, will be introduced in Parliament by Union Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal on Tuesday.

Officials said the bill should have a provision to reserve one-third of the seats reserved for women for SCs and STs. The demand for a quota within the quota is what prevented the bill from being approved by Parliament, although it was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010.

The bill, officials said, is expected to be fully implemented by 2027, once the census and delimitation exercises are completed. It should have a provision for rotation of seats reserved for women in every election, as is done in panchayat polls, where reservation is already in force.

A bill to reserve 33% of seats for women was first proposed by the Deve Gowda government in 1996. The UPA government later reintroduced the legislation, officially known as the Bill the Constitution (one hundred and eighth amendment), in 2008.

The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010, but it was never introduced in the 15th Lok Sabha and lapsed after its dissolution in 2014.

Government sources said the new legislation, which will be tabled on Tuesday, is different from the one that was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010, and hence it will have to be cleared by both the Houses. “It is a constitutional amendment bill,” a senior official said.

Although the BJP and Congress had always supported the bill, it was opposed by parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, who had demanded a quota within the quota for Dalits and Backward Classes. In the run-up to the special session, several parties, including the Congress, Bharat Rashtra Samithi and the Ajit Pawar faction of the Nationalist Congress Party, had been pushing for the introduction of the Women’s Reservation Bill.

When asked about the bill as she entered Parliament on Tuesday, former Congress president Sonia Gandhi said: “It is ours, apna hai“.


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