Congress plans to raise the issue of the lapsed Women's Reservation Bill in a big way with party President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi set to flag their concerns over the issue during a meeting of eight thousand-odd Mahila Congress members on Wednesday.
The All-India Conference to be held at Talkatora Stadium shall also see Mahila Congress workers form a human chain on issues of women's reservation, atrocities against the fairer gender and price rise.
"All three issues affect women directly. They are disturbing to women... A human chain of women workers will be formed to highlight the issues. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi will be there at the meeting... You will listen from them," Congress spokesperson Shobha Oza told reporters at an AICC briefing.
Two days before the conclusion of the Monsoon session of Parliament on August 14, Sonia had made a strong pitch for the Women's Reservation Bill, saying Congress was determined to fulfil its commitment to the women in the country.
Addressing a state government-sponsored women's self-help group in Congress-ruled Kerala, she had also said that her party would press the BJP-led NDA government to pass the women's reservation bill in Lok Sabha. The bill seeks to reserve 33 per cent of the seats in Parliament and legislative Assemblies for women.
Asked why Congress is raising the issue now when the Parliament session is over, Oza said that the women of the country, as also Congress, would be happy even if the government passed the bill in the next session. "We did not have the numbers in Lok Sabha. So we could not pass it (the bill). In Rajya Sabha, since we had the numbers, we got it passed despite opposition by some parties. It was the late Rajiv Gandhi's idea to empower women by starting reservation for them in panchayats.
"Now, all Congress-ruled states have given 50 per cent reservation to women in local bodies while no BJP-ruled state has done so," claimed Oza. Attacking BJP over the issue, she said it had made big promises to women but, after coming to power, has not done anything.
"We will support the bill whenever the government tables it in Parliament," she said. The 15th Lok Sabha could not pass the bill and the Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, which was pending in the lower House since 2010, lapsed following its dissolution.
The 18-year journey of the Women's Reservation Bill has been marked by high drama and roadblocks in each outing in Parliament before the historic measure cleared the first legislative hurdle in March, 2010, when Rajya Sabha passed it during a sitting which saw marshals being used.