The tabling of the women's reservation Bill by the Narendra Modi government put the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) into a bit of a dilemma. The reason for this is that while some parties like the Congress, DMK, Trinamool Congress and the Left have historically been supporters of the Bill, others like the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) had opposed it in the past.
The Bill had the potential of creating divisions within the INDIA bloc but that didn't happen with parties coordinating effectively among themselves. In the end, the alliance is likely to support the Bill and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi may lead the debate from their side.
The Bill itself gave the Opposition coalition two points of criticism that enabled it to achieve broad unity within its ranks.
Push for OBC Quota
There seems to be broad consensus within the INDIA bloc that they shouldn't vote against the Bill or be seen to be opposing it in any manner.
Sources say that the Samajwadi Party and Janata Dal (United) have decided that they won't oppose the Bill but will "push aggressively" for an OBC quota within the 33 percent reservation for women.
Among all the parties that had opposed it in the past, the RJD is said to be the least keen on backing the Bill in its present form.
Laying down the party's stand, former Bihar CM Rabri Devi posted on X:
"Women from OBC/EBC category will be excluded. Women's reservation will be implemented after delimitation. Delimitation will happen after census. And Centre has delayed census because it was faced with the demand for a caste census. This is nothing but noise".
The demand for a sub-quota for OBC women is also in line the pro-social justice narrative that the alliance is trying to push in the run-up to the elections.
'Why the Delay?'
The other point of criticism from the INDIA bloc is the delay in implementation of the legislation.
Senior Congress leader and former home and finance minister P Chidambaram wrote on X:
"The date of the next Census is indeterminate. The date of the next Delimitation is indeterminate (and perhaps controversial). The Women's Reservation is dependent on two indeterminate dates! Can there be a greater jumla? The women's reservation can be implemented immediately on the basis of the updated Voters lists."
Delhi minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Atishi addressed a press conference and said that "This is a Bill to fool women".
"The earliest this Bill can be implemented is in 2027 or 2028. But the government is trying to fool women for the 2024 elections," she said.
Atishi demanded that the government shouldn't tie the implementation to the census or delimitation and amend the Bill so that it can be implemented for the 2024 elections.
The Trinamool Congress' stand, like the Congress, is to assert that it is the pioneer of the Bill. While the Congress and DMK are making it a point to say that women's reservation is the UPA's mission, the TMC has said that the party already implemented women's reservation while allotting tickets in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.