Union Cabinet meets amid buzz over Women’s Reservation Bill

Union Minister deletes post after congratulating PM Modi; several Congress leaders also took to social media platforms to welcome the Bill and claimed credit for it.?

September 18, 2023 10:12 pm | Updated September 19, 2023 10:22 am IST - New Delhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chairs Union Cabinet meeting in New Delhi on September 18, 2023. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Home Minister Amit Shah are also seen.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chairs Union Cabinet meeting in New Delhi on September 18, 2023. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Home Minister Amit Shah are also seen. | Photo Credit: PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a meeting of the Union Cabinet in New Delhi on September 18 evening after the first sitting of the special session of Parliament amid speculation that the Women’s Reservation Bill was to be tabled in Parliament during the ongoing session, which will be held in the new building of Parliament from September 19.

The meeting of the Union Cabinet lasted over 90 minutes and there was no formal briefing or release. But amid reports that the Union Cabinet has approved the Women’s Reservation Bill that seeks to reserve one-third of the seats in Lok Sabha and the State legislative Assemblies, Prahlad Singh Patel, a Minister of State for Food Processing Industries and Jal Shakti, first congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi on X (formerly Twitter) before deleting his post.

Explained | Understanding the significance of the Parliament ‘special session’

The government has neither made any official announcement after the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the Union Cabinet in the evening nor was the agenda of the Cabinet meet known.

In his now deleted post, Mr. Patel said, “Only the Modi government had the moral courage to fulfil the demand for women’s reservation. Which was proved by the approval of the cabinet. Congratulations PM Narendra Modi and congratulations to the PM Modi government”.

Mr. Patel, who is a member of the Council of Ministers, however is not a member of the Union Cabinet where the decision was reportedly taken.

There has been speculation that the government may move the bill, which would require an amendment to the Constitution, during the five-day special of Parliament that began on Monday.

Congress takes credit for the Bill

Several Congress leaders also took to social media platforms to welcome the bill and claimed credit for it.

In a post on X, former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said the reported nod to the Women’s Reservation Bill is a victory for his party. “If the government introduces the Women’s Reservation Bill tomorrow, it will be a victory for the Congress and its allies in the UPA government. Remember, it was during the UPA government that the Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha on 9-3-2010,” said Mr. Chidambaram.

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The veteran Congress leader alleged that the BJP had hoped to bury the Bill in the hope that “the clamour for it will die” but is resurrecting it in its 10th year.

“On the contrary, at every opportunity — most recently at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) at Hyderabad — the Congress has vociferously pleaded for the Bill to be passed in Parliament. Let’s hope that the Bill will be introduced and passed in the ongoing Session,” Mr. Chidambaram added.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also welcomed the move and reposted on X a July 16, 2018, letter of Rahul Gandhi to the Prime Minister in which Mr. Gandhi had demanded the passage of the Women’s Bill.

“It’s been a long-standing demand of the Congress party to implement women’s reservation. We welcome the reported decision of the Union Cabinet and await the details of the Bill. This could have very well been discussed in the all-party meeting before the Special Session, and consensus could have been built instead of operating under a veil of secrecy,” Mr. Ramesh said in another post.

The issue, however, may create a divide within the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc as a few parties like the Janata Dal United and Rashtriya Janata Dal have strongly opposed to the previous versions of the Bill by demanding quota within quota for the others backward classes.

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