Delimitation is the process of demarcation of the boundaries of parliamentary or assembly constituencies. According to the Constitution, the number of seats allocated to each state in the Lok Sabha is dependent on its population. The Constitution also calls for the reallocation of seats after every Census. However, because of decisions taken by subsequent governments and Parliaments — starting with Indira Gandhi in 1976 and then Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2002 — the last such exercise was carried out after the 1971 Census. According to the Constitution (84th Amendment) Act, 2002, there is a freeze on readjustment of constituencies till the first Census after 2026.
Meanwhile, the last Census was to have been conducted in 2021, but was postponed owing to the Covid pandemic, and is now expected to be carried out in 2024.
What this means is that the earliest reservation for women can come into effect in Parliament is for the Lok Sabha elections of 2029.
Terming this timeline a “huge betrayal” for women, the Congress — which has claimed credit for the idea of women’s reservation in elected politics — has demanded that reservations be enacted for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections of 2024.
“In a season of election jumlas, this one is the biggest of them all! A huge betrayal of the hopes of crores of Indian women and girls. As we had pointed out earlier, Modi government has not yet conducted the 2021 Decadal Census making India the only country in G20 that has failed to carry out the Census. Now it says that the reservation for women will come into effect only following the first decadal Census conducted AFTER the Women’s Reservation Bill has become an Act. When will this Census take place?” Congress general secretary and member of Parliament, Jairam Ramesh, asked on social media platform X (previously Twitter), Tuesday.
Ramesh added: “The Bill also says the reservation come into effect only after the publication of the next Census and the subsequent delimitation exercise thereafter. Will the Census and delimitation be done before the 2024 elections? Basically the Bill gets the headlines today with a very vague promise of its implementation date. This is nothing but EVM — Event Management (sic)”.
The bill also drew sharp criticism from Delhi Women and Child Development Minister Atishi, who noted that the “devil lies in the detail”. While she reiterated her support for ‘women’s reservation’ in-principle, the bill, she alleged, was being used as a method to “fool women” across the country.
Shortly before the bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi informed the House about the Union Cabinet’s approval for the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, issued the previous evening.
In his first speech in the new Parliament building, the Prime Minister added, “Just talking about women’s development is not enough. If we have to achieve new milestones in the development journey of mankind, if we have to achieve new destinations in the development journey of the nation, then it is necessary that we lay emphasis on women-led development.”
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‘No interest in wellbeing of women’
Referring to section (5) of the bill, Atishi noted that the existing provisions in the bill require a fresh census and subsequent delimitation exercise for it to come into effect, adding the overall implementation will not happen before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Further, the Delhi cabinet minister asked why the BJP was celebrating the bill’s introduction if its implementation would be delayed.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has no interest in the well-being of women, it’s [the party] anti-women and [has members such as] Brij Bhushan [Singh]. We demand that he and the BJP ensure the said reservation must be in place before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, and this Bill must be amended,” Atishi said while talking to the media Tuesday.
Congress MP in Lok Sabha, Manish Tewari, also presented a similar argument.
“The 128th Constitution Amendment Bill is a betrayal of the women’s movement and their struggle for greater democratic representation in law and policy making. Clause 334 -A of the bill says reservation would come into effect post the first census after the bill becomes law & the DELIMITATION based upon that Census,” said Tewari.
He added: “It is instructive to note that the Census due in 2021 has still not been held. Earliest Women’s reservation will become a reality in Parliament & Legislative Assemblies will be 2029 or even later . BRING WOMEN’s RESERVATION NOW, (sic)” Tewari wrote on X.
The 128 th Constitution Amendment Bill is a betrayal of the women’s ‘s movement and their struggle for greater democratic representation in law and policy making.
Clause 334 -A of the bill says reservation would come into effect post the first census after the bill becomes law &…
— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) September 19, 2023
Meanwhile, former Congress MP and former party president, Sonia Gandhi, claimed the Women’s Reservation Bill to be the party’s idea. “It is ours”, said Sonia, before entering Parliament.
In a meeting of the Congress Working Committee, the highest decision-making body of the party, over the weekend, the Congress had demanded that the Women’s Reservation Bill, which had been passed in Rajya Sabha in 2010 during Manmohan Singh’s tenure as Prime Minister, be introduced in Lok Sabha and passed.
However, speaking in the Lok Sabha Tuesday, Home Minister Amit Shah and Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal said that bill lapsed after the 15th Lok Sabha was dissolved.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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