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Monday, May 23, 2022

In U-turn, Cong looks at quota for SC, ST, OBCs in women’s Bill

The Women’s Reservation Bill was passed by Rajya Sabha in 2010 but the UPA govt could not take it forward due to strong opposition from Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Sharad Yadav.

Written by Manoj C G | Udaipur |
Updated: May 15, 2022 9:01:28 am
The Congress has organised a Chintan Shivir or brainstorming session to bring about organisational changes in the party. (Photo: AICC)

Keen to regain the support of people from Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and minorities, the Congress is planning to demand reservation for SC/ST and OBCs in private sector and reservation for OBCs in Parliament and state Assemblies.

The party is also discussing a proposal to demand quota within quota for people from SC, ST and other backward classes in the women’s reservation Bill, which is hanging fire for several years.

The Bill to reserve for women one-third of all seats in Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies was passed by Rajya Sabha in 2010 but the then UPA government could not take it forward due to strong opposition from Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav, RJD’s Lalu Prasad and then JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav, who had demanded ‘quota within quota’ for SCs, STs, OBCs and minorities in the Bill.

The Congress had then strongly resisted the idea.

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Thirteen years on, the party,-with its vote bank depleted and electoral influence considerably eroded, is thinking of changing its stand and demanding quota within quota. At the ongoing Chintan Shivir in Udaipur, a panel on social justice and empowerment, set up by the Congress president and headed by Salman Khurshid, has proposed that the women’s reservation Bill should have quota within quota. It is to be seen whether the demand will find reflection in the Udaipur declaration that the party will adopt on Sunday.

The panel wants the Congress to take a stand and demand a caste-based census of all communities, a central legislation on SC/ST sub-plan and similar legislation at the state level, reservation in private sector for SCs/STs and OBCs, and reservation for OBCs in Parliament and Assemblies.

“The party should push for passage of the women’s reservation Bill but there should be a quota within quota…. There should be proportionate representation for SC/ST and OBC women,” Congress leader K Raju, a member of the group, said.

Khurshid said there is no inconsistency in the party regarding quota within quota in the Bill. “We moved on from that position where we had strategically felt that quota for women should come first,” he said. “Sometimes you have to push legislation strategically. We were committed to a quota for women.”


Change within, to show commitment to weaker sections

The proposals include setting up a social advisory council in Congress to closely examine social justice-related issues, implementing 50% reservation in party for leaders from SC, ST, OBC and minority communities at all levels.

He said: “The problem in quota within a quota was that we had assumed there would not be easy agreement and consensus on that, and as a result we would lose out on reservation for women at that stage. Therefore, a conscious strategic decision was taken to get the quota (for women) first; then we will see about further segmentation.

“Now we have lost a lot of time, and politics has undergone a very, very significant change since then. We do believe that now is the right time to make it very clear where you stand. We stand for women participating in a fulsome manner…that women from all categories should be able to participate. We don’t want people to believe that there is a hidden agenda that you bring in women (in legislatures) but you bring in women only who find it easy to get elected.”

After “thoughtful consideration”, inputs from party colleagues, and from people in social sector, the party “came to the conclusion that we should recommend to the CWC [Congress Working Committee, the party’s top decision-making body] that now the time has come to take the bull by the horns (to) make sure that we get quota within quota pushed at one go”, Khurshid said.

Senior party leader Kumari Selja said the UPA could not pass the Bill then due to many contradictions in the coalition.

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