Sonia seeks passage of women’s quota bill, slams government

New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday asked the government to pay attention to the passing of Women’s Reservation Bill in parliament that seeks to reserve one-third legislative seats in the country for women.

She accused the Narendra Modi government of “double standards” and said that maximum governance — the catchphrase of the prime minister — should ensure “freedom” for civil society and not just accelerated economic growth.

“The long-awaited Women’s Reservation Bill requires the government’s attention,” she said in the Lok Sabha during a debate to mark International Women’s Day on Tuesday.

Taking a dig at the government on the prime minister’s much talked about ‘maximum governance’, she said: “Maximum governance is more than just accelerating the economic growth. Surely, maximum governance involves expanding space for debate, for disagreement and for the expression of different points of view without inviting retaliation and retribution.”

The Congress leader said that maximum governance should involve “giving freedom to civil society, non-governmental organisations and activist groups”, and that it should be anchored in “deepening of country’s democratic and liberal values”.

Sonia Gandhi’s remarks come in the backdrop of controversies over government action in the Jawaharlal Nehru University and Hyderabad University cases.

“Surely, maximum governance does not mean having double standards in relation to women and their rights. Maximum governance means protecting, preserving and strengthening our social and communal fabric,” she said.

Making a strong pitch for the passage of the women’s quota bill, she said, “Maximum governance also means giving us women our legitimate due – namely the much-awaited Women’s’ Reservation Bill.”

In this context, the Congress chief also sought the intervention of Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and said, “I believe we can expect in you, madam speaker, a strong ally for this cause.”

She said the Congress was proud of giving the country its first woman prime minister in Indira Gandhi, first woman president in Pratibha Devisingh Patil and the first woman Lok Sabha speaker in Meira Kumar.

Sonia Gandhi expressed concern over the laying down of eligibility criteria vis-a-vis education by some states for fighting local bodies’ polls.

“Such things results in denying rights to women belonging to the scheduled castes and tribes. The matter needs urgent attention,” she said.

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