Rahul Gandhi bats for women’s reservation bill

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi interacts with women to seek their opinion on party manifesto for Lok Sabha elections 2014, in Bhopal. PTI Photo
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi interacts with women to seek their opinion on party manifesto for Lok Sabha elections 2014, in Bhopal. PTI Photo

Bhopal, Jan 20 (PTI) : Batting for early passage of women’s reservation bill, Rahul Gandhi today vowed to work for larger representation to them in Parliament, government and Congress and noted that the party and the country cannot ignore the views of half of the population.

Interacting with women from across the country as part of Congress’ exercise of seeking direct inputs from stakeholders for its 2014 Lok Sabha election manifesto, Gandhi said he wanted “maximum possible” women in leadership positions and on a personal note added that even in Gandhi household, “Grandmother (Indira Gandhi) was the boss…”.

“Empowering women is a big battle that we have to fight and win,” he said and expressed confidence that not only the Women Reservation Bill that seeks to provide 33 per cent quota to them in legislatures will be passed but in next five to ten years, nearly half of Congress ministers will be women.

“Every woman is an asset for the country…. India can not become a superpower without the empowerment of 50 per cent population of women…. We have to bring your views in our manifesto,” Gandhi said during the interaction as the women put forth their views frankly to the Congress Vice President, at times critical and demanding specific solutions.

Among the women present were sex workers, Anganwadi workers, besides members of Gulabi Gang, a group of women vigilantes and activists originally from Bundelkhand.

“Women Reservation Bill is in Parliament. I assure that we will not let it go….We have to do this 33 percent reservation women in Parliament and Assemblies. Political parties also have a responsibility.

“My thinking is that there should maximum possible number of women in leadership positions. I want that among the ministers of Congress that you see now, there should be 50 percent women in next five to ten years,” Gandhi said.

He said that there is a need to be aggressive and get going to ensure that women are empowered.

In his interaction laced with anecdotes, Gandhi also said, “I want to tell you my perspective…In my house, there was papa (Rajiv Gandhi), there was uncle (Sanjay Gandhi) but the boss of the house was my grandmother. There was no doubt about that that. Grandma was the boss,” he said with a chuckle.

Noting that there is no difference betwen the capacity of a man and a woman, he sad, “Women do not need any protection.

If you give them their rights, they can protect themselves.”

“Unless the bill was passed it will not be possible to empower women in all spheres,” Gandhi, who is leading the Lok Sabha polls campaign for Congress, said.

The Women’s Reservation Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha but not in the Lok Sabha and ensuring its passage before the elections is said to be on the priority list of Sonia Gandhi.

The bill is facing opposition from Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and from some section of the Congress.

Rahul said it was sad that even today women were subjected to all kinds of violence in the country.

Narrating an incident during a visit to his Parliamentary seat Amethi, he said that he saw a man was dragging a woman by her hair because she had not cooked food.

Maintaining that while this incident was of “extreme” nature, Gandhi told the gathering of women that they must also have been suppressed at some point.

“This feeling has to be removed from the country.

Violence takes place against women and this happens from the deep inside. There can be various ways of violence against women. We have to fight against this violence. The biggest thing is that we have change the attitude.

“There are 50 percent women in the country without whom the nation cannot develop. Our country cannot become superpower unless we could ensure safety of all our women. We do not even want such a superpower in which women, who are half of the population are not empowered,” he said.

Gandhi noted every woman wil be an asset irrespective of in whatever condition she is adding “we have to just create opportunities for them.”

“We want to take your views in manifesto. The idea behind the process is to include your voice in the manifesto of Congress party. Earlier five people used to make manifesto. In other parties also five-seven people used to finalize what will be in the manifesto. We want to put your views in that.

“Not only women, we also met youths, members from SC/ST, minority. We will also ask about it from farmers. We will seek the views of every section about what they want in the manifesto and all reasonable suggestions related to policy will be incorporated,” Gandhi said.

During the meeting some among the group of 250 women also raised concerns over rising prices of LPG and petroleum and sought categorical assurances from Gandhi. Some raised the issue of Aanganwadi workers’ strike in Maharashtra and demand for better stipend and pension while others talked about jobs.

The Congress Vice President said that the issues will be looked into and studied.



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