"First we need caste census, and SC, ST and OBC women must be given reservations too," remarked Congress leader Sonia Gandhi while participating in the Lok Sabha discussion on the Women's Reservation Bill on Wednesday, 20 September.
Tabled on Tuesday, 19 September, the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam or Women's Reservation Bill was passed by the Lower House with 454 MPs voting in favour and 2 MPs voting against it.
Other women MPs from the Opposition such as Trinamool Congress' Mahua Moitra, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MP Supriya Sule, and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) Kanimozhi also raised pertinent questions about the Bill.
From the treasury benches, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani and Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman weighed in on the discussion.
Here's a glimpse of who said what:
Sonia Gandhi's Demands, Smriti Irani's Retort
"How many years will they wait? Two years? Four years? Six years? Eight years? Is this right? The Congress demands that this Bill be implemented immediately but there should be a caste census and the women of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, OBC must be given reservation too. The government should take all necessary steps for this," said Sonia Gandhi.
Stating that the demand for women's reservation in local elections was first brought in by my late husband Rajiv Gandhi, she further said that "his dream is only partially completed."
Referring to Sonia Gandhi's speech, Union Minister Smriti Irani said, "I would like to thank the leader for clarifying that the amendment for the Bill was brought by PV Narsimha Rao."
Hitting back, Irani said, "The Congress had proposed women's quota for not more than 15 years, but BJP guarantees reservation of seats for women. I express my gratitude towards PM Modi and Law Minister who didn't allow this desire of the Congress to become a reality."
'Hope Political Empowerment Is Done': Nirmala Sitharaman
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on the other hand, primarily spoke about the Chandrayaan-3 mission and added remarks on the Women's Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha as well on Wednesday.
"The Bill is necessarily an instrument through which we hope that the political empowerment is done just like the scientific empowerment has been happening. If that kind of access and opportunity is given to women, they can perform as well as our scientists are preforming in ISRO."Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman
'Bill's Agenda Is Delay, Not Reservation': Mahua Moitra
Talking about the bill, TMC MP Mahua Moitra challenged the BJP to implement the Bill immediately and send 33 percent of women from the party to the Parliament.
"Within women parliamentarians, Muslims and Dalits have been consistently underrepresented. From 1952 to 2004, only eight Muslim women were elected to Lok Sabha, many of whom served multiple terms. In today's Lok Sabha, we have only two Muslim women members, both from West Bengal, from TMC..."TMC MP Mahua Moitra in Lok Sabha
She continued that Article 334 of the Bill said that reservation will only come into affect once delimitation has been undertaken. "Delimitation will only be undertaken after the relevant figures for the next Census have been published. The rotation of seats for women shall take affect after every subsequent exercise of delimitation," Moitra said.
"We don't know if and when we will actually have 33% of women sitting in LS. The date of the next census is entirely indeterminate. Therefore, the date of the delimitation exercise is doubly indeterminate," she further said.
"Can there be a greater jhumla? Forget 2024, This may not even be possible in 2029 [...] it is not Women's Reservation Bill, it's Women Reservation Rescheduling Bill," Moitra remarked.
'What Was the Need for Special Session?': Supriya Sule
Addressing the Lok Sabha, NCP MP Supriya Sule said, "The BJP was taking anticipatory bail by making Nishikant Dubey speak, Why not give reservation to SC/ST and OBC women? Let the message go from this House that the government supports SC/ST and OBCs."
"Nishikant Dubey said that INDIA is on the side of people who ran women down and spoke derogatorily...There was a Head of the BJP in Maharashtra. He told me personally on record on television - 'Supriya Sule ghar jaao, khana banao, desh koi aur chala lega. Hum log chalayenge.' This is what the BJP's mindset is," she added.
Stating that thee dates for both — the census and delimitation are intermittent, she remarked, "Then why has this session been called? What is the need of this special session?"
'Devil in the Detail': Harsimrat Kaur Badal
On the other hand, echoing the sentiments of other leaders, Shiromani Akali Dal MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal said that women waited for 75 years only for their hopes to be dashed as the reservation won't get implemented till census and delimitation is completed.
She said, "Devil in the detail has come forth. The census was to be held in 2021 and now 2023 is about to end and it hasn't been done yet and we don't know when will it happen....Why did you bring this Bill when you're not implementing it? This male-dominated Parliament betrayed women and today also it was a betrayal," she told ANI.
'Bill Was Brought in Shrouded in Secrecy': Kanimozhi
Addressing the Lok Sabha, DMK MP Kanimozhi Karunanidhi said that the women's reservation bill should be implemented immediately.
"They said that they have to involve all stakeholders, political parties and then build a consensus before bringing the Bill. I would like to know what consensus was built. What discussions were held? This Bill was brought shrouded in secrecy. We did not know what this session was called for," Kanimozhi said.
She also questioned as to how long the wait will be before the Bill is implemented.
"The bill is called Nari Shakti Vandan Bill. Stop saluting us. We don't want to be put on pedestals or be worshipped or be sisters wives. We want to be treated as equals. This country and Parliament belongs to us too," Kanimozhi added.
'Bill Dependent on Census and Delimitation': Dimple Yadav
Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party (SP) MP Dimple Yadav also added to the Lok Sabha discussion and said that if the government's intention is positive and if they think that women should get their rights and respect, then "we demand that women of minority and backward class are also included in it."
"I have asked questions about when the census would happen and if the caste-based census would take place. I also asked when the delimitation process will take place because both are related to each other. The Women's Reservation Bill is dependent on both of these," she told ANI.