Parties don't give tickets to women of weaker sections, says Kharge as RS witnesses heated exchanges between ruling, oppn benches
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge on Tuesday said most political parties do not give tickets to women from weaker sections, a remark that triggered strong protests from treasury benches.
He also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alleging that while he talks about federalism, the federal structure has ''weakened'' under his government. The Congress chief spoke of the ''toppling'' of governments in several states like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh in this regard.
The remarks by Kharge irked the members of the ruling party, including Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who protested several times during his speech and there were heated exchanges with the Congress MPs who too were on their feet.
In his address, Kharge alleged that non-BJP-ruled states have not received GST payments in time, a claim rebutted strongly by Sitharaman who said that no GST payment to any state is pending and all payments have been cleared.
This remark also prompted Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar to direct both the Leader of Opposition and the Finance Minister to lay on the table of the House by Tuesday evening the papers to substantiate their claims, saying ''it is a serious issue''.
Kharge claimed that though ''they do not give us credit, I wish to bring to the notice that the women's reservation bill was already passed in 2010 but it could not be taken forward due to some impediments.
''All political parties have this habit that they give tickets to weaker women. I know how parties select women of scheduled caste, backward classes....,'' Kharge alleged, leading to strong protests on the claim.
''Tickets are given to such women of weaker sections that they should not open their mouth... It is so in all parties of the country and that is why women are lagging behind. You do not allow them to speak and don't allow their rights,'' he again said amid loud protests from the ruling side in the House on the first day of proceedings in the new Parliament building.
''We have always supported the women's reservation bill. In 2010, the Congress-UPA government got the Women's Reservation Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha.
''The way the SC/STs got a constitutional opportunity in politics, similarly everyone including women of OBC class should get an equal opportunity through this bill. There is a need to carefully look into the bill brought by the Modi government today,'' he also said.
''In the current draft bill, it is written that it will be implemented only after the Decadal Census and Delimitation. This means, the Modi government has probably closed the doors of women's reservation till 2029. The BJP should clarify on this,'' Kharge later tweeted.
During the proceedings, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the ''sweeping statement'' of Kharge on women candidates is ''absolutely unacceptable''.
''I speak on behalf of all our women. We all have been empowered by our party, by our Hon'ble Prime Minister. Hon'ble Rashrapati Droupadi Murmu ji is an empowered woman. Every (female) MP of my party is an empowered woman,'' she added.
Sitharaman stressed that the opposition leader cannot insult people like this.
To this, Kharge, who is president of the Congress party, said: ''Women belonging to backward classes, scheduled caste women do not get the kind the opportunities she (Sitharaman) gets''.
Sitharaman again objected and asked, ''Who is Droupadi Murmu? Opposition leader cannot insult people like this, cannot draw a differentiation between women... We are asking for reservation for all women''.
After the intervention of Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar, House proceedings continued.
Kharge said he was referring to all parties and not just the ruling party. ''This is the mindset of all parties and that is why this is the state of women. You do not allow women of backward classes to come forward.'' He welcomed the women's reservation bill titled Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam.
Later Kharge referred to the remarks made by Prime Minister Modi regarding federal structure and competitive federalism in the country and alleged, ''Federal structure is being weakened under your leadership day-by-day''.
This statement was vociferously objected to by BJP members.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the prime minister's speech was totally ''apolitical'', unbiased and balanced, and urged Kharge to speak in the House like a ''statesman''.
The senior Congress leader accused the central government of engineering the fall of governments led by opposition parties in states like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
This remark also drew protests from the ruling party MPs.
Kharge accused the central government of delaying GST dues to the non-BJP state governments and grants for welfare schemes like MNREGA.
However, Sitharaman challenged the statement regarding the payments of dues.
''A factually incorrect statement has been made by the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) wherein he's saying that GST revenue is not given to the states on time. This is absolutely wrong,'' she said.
The minister also told the House that her ministry even borrowed money and paid to the states.
''Three times we have paid the money in advance. There is no money pending for any state in GST and there is no delay in payment to the states. It is wrong on the part of the LoP to blame like this,'' Sitharaman added.
Chairman Dhankhar then asked the two to table documents in support of their remarks during the course of the day.
Kharge's remarks that the prime minister can speak for 2-3 hours but will not say anything on the Manipur situation also evoked a sharp reaction from the BJP members.
Dhankhar said that he was ready for a discussion on the Manipur issue in the House but it could not take place because of objections by opposition members.
Kharge earlier said the Parliament is the temple of Indian democratic polity and is sacred and permanent.
''It is my fond hope that we have fruitful discussions on all matters of public interest and considered deliberations on bills.
''I also hope that in the times to come the fraternity among parliamentarians cutting across the party lines, is re-established in order to create a congenial atmosphere and constructive exchange of ideas among lawmakers,'' he said.
''The need of the nation is that we parliamentarians live up to the people's expectations in addressing their concerns,'' the Congress leader said.
The House proceedings were adjourned till Wednesday morning after Kharge's speech.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)