In a rare display of bipartisan consensus, the Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the historic Women Reservation Bill with 454 members voting in its favour.
In the voting through slips, only two Lok Sabha members voted against the Women Reservation Bill.
The Narendra Modi government introduced the Women Reservation Bill, formally called the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, 2023 [The Constitution (One Hundred Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023], on Tuesday.
The Women Reservation Bill seeks to reserve one-third of the seats in the Lok Sabha and in the assemblies of states and Union Territories (UTs).
Since the Women Reservation Bill involves amending the Constitution of India, a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting in the house was required for its passage. A similar two-thirds majority would be required for the passage of the bill in the Rajya Sabha. While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a simple majority on its own in the Lok Sabha, it does not have a two-thirds majority and had to depend on bipartisan support for the bill.
After clearing Lok Sabha, the Women Reservation Bill is headed to the Rajya Sabha and would later go to the President of India to be signed into law.
After the passage of the Women Reservation Bill, the Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day. The proceedings would resume at 11 am on Thursday.
There have been demands for a long time for reservation of seats for women in the Parliament and state legislatures and, in the run-up to the Special Session of the Parliament, parties across the spectrum had called for the passage of the Women Reservation Bill.
While the bill has a broad consensus in Lok Sabha, and even Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said he supports the bill, the Opposition parties including Congress and party leader Rahul have criticised the exclusion of other backward classes (OBCs) in the bill. For this and other reasons, some parties have also opposed the bill. Rahul has also criticised the requirement of delimitation and census for the implementation of the reservation.
It has been pointed out that the earliest that the women's reservation can be introduced is 2029 as the census would be carried out sometime after the 2024 general elections, following which a delimitation exercise would be carried out. It is after these two conditions are fulfilled that the seats in the Lok Sabha and assemblies of states and UTs would be reserved for women.
Earlier in 2008, the Women Reservation Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by the then Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, but the bill did not progress in the Lok Sabha. Now, as the ruling BJP has a clear majority in the Lok Sabha and there also exists broad consensus in the house for the bill, the bill was expected to pass easily as it has enough numbers in its favour.
Among the Opposition ranks, the Congress party, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Janata Dal-United (JD-U), and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) were among those who had declared support for the bill prior to the voting.