Two days ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament, Congress President Rahul Gandhi today raked up the contentious issue of Women's Reservation Bill, asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to "walk his talk" by ensuring its passage and offered his party's "unconditional support".
However, the BJP was quick to accuse the opposition party of adopting "double standard" on the matter by siding with those who were opposed to the bill and asked if the Congress could assure support of its allies, in an apparent reference to parties like Lalu Prasad Yadav-led RJD and Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party.
The Rajya Sabha had passed the constitutional amendment bill on March 9, 2010 to facilitate reserving one-third of total seats in state assemblies and Parliament for women, but the Lok Sabha never voted on it and the proposed legislation lapsed after the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2014.
"Our PM says he's a crusader for women's empowerment? Time for him to rise above party politics, walk-his-talk & have the Women's Reservation Bill passed by Parliament. The Congress offers him its unconditional support," Gandhi tweeted and attached a letter to Modi.
The Congress chief urged Modi to ensure that the Bill gets passed in the upcoming session itself so that women can participate "more meaningfully" in the state elections later this year and in the Lok Sabha polls next year.
"Mr Prime Minister, in many of your public rallies you have spoken about your passion for empowering women and involving them more meaningfully in public life.
"What better way to demonstrate your commitment to the cause of women, than by offering your unconditional support to the passage of the Women's Reservation Bill? And what better time, than the upcoming session of Parliament? Any further delay will make it impossible to implement before the next general elections," Gandhi wrote to Modi.
Since then, while the Congress has been unwavering in its commitment to the Bill, the BJP appears to have had second thoughts, even though this was one of its key promises in its 2014 manifesto, Gandhi said.
"This shows the double standard of Congress as it is in alliance with those who opposed the legislation... It is Congress which is sitting with those opposed to the Bill. It is Congress which is in alliance with those who had opposed the Women's Reservation Bill. So will now Congress come out of the alliance or will it get the letters of support from those parties?," the BJP leader said.
The minister was referring to the RJD, which is in alliance with the Congress in Bihar. The Rashtriya Janata Dal and SP have been opposing the reservation for women in Lok Sabha and state legislatures in the proposed format and have previously demanded quota within quota for backward classes.
Accusing the BJP government of "betraying" the women by not fulfilling its promises on empowerment and safety, Congress spokesperson Sushmita Dev alleged that the Modi government has "failed" to provide reservation despite having a clear majority in Lok Sabha.
The Mahila Congress, which Dev leads, took out a protest in open jeeps from the AICC headquarters on the Akbar Road here in favour of the Women's Reservation Bill. They also issued a "charge sheet" against the prime minister over what they termed as his "failure" to deliver the promises made on these issues.
"Will the prime minister come forward in the forthcoming session of Parliament to answer the charges levelled by the All India Mahila Congress? Otherwise it will be assumed that he is guilty as charged," she told reporters.
In his letter, Gandhi asked the prime minister to tell "the sceptics" within the BJP opposing the proposed transformational legislation that the country's experience with Panchayat and Municipal elections has clearly shown that women in leadership positions are more likely, than their male counterparts, to take decisions that further the cause of an inclusive and just society.
This shows why this bill has the potential to transform governance in India, the Congress president said.
The Congress president said his party has collected over 3.2 million signatures of Indian men and women in support of the Bill and he was submitting the same to the the prime minister while seeking his support.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)