THE CURTAIN has been lifted, if partly, on the agenda for the five-day special session of Parliament that began Monday, though one thing for certain will happen today: the House will move into its big new home.
After a surprise Cabinet meeting that lasted more than an hour on Monday evening, word came that the women’s reservation Bill, stuck for 27 years, will be introduced on Wednesday – though there is nothing official about it still.
The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is said to have cleared a draft Bill on reserving 33% seats in Parliament and state Assemblies for women. But, Minister of State Prahlad Singh Patel who posted this announcement, deleted it minutes later.
As per a report by Liz Mathew in the paper today, the reservation for women is unlikely to come into effect in the coming elections, and would rather have to wait for the delimitation process to be over, putting its date tentatively at 2029.
Ahead of the session on Monday, Modi said though Parliament would meet only for five days, it would witness “historic decisions”. While the first day saw no legislative business, and was spent on discussing “Parliamentary Journey of 75 years”, in the frenzied reading between the lines, Modi’s reference to “the growing representation and contribution of women MPs” was seen as an indication of what was coming.
The Congress, apprehensive about the Modi government giving itself a boost ahead of the elections, underlined its role in the journey towards the women’s quota Bill. In Parliament, Opposition parties used their speeches to press the government to bring the Bill, as reported by Manoj C G and Harikishan Sharma.
Sources told Liz that leaders including Modi are likely to meet a few MPs and talking heads on Tuesday also over the legislation.
The day will begin with three separate group photographs — first of MPs from both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, second of Upper House members separately, and third of Lok Sabha members – taken in the inner courtyard of the old Parliament building.
Next will be a function lasting around one-and-a-half hours in the Central Hall of the old Parliament building – led by Modi, Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla – to “commemorate the country’s rich Parliamentary legacy”. Modi will reportedly bear a copy of the Constitution into the Central Hall for the occasion.
Veteran parliamentarians will address the gathering, with PTI reporting that Maneka Gandhi and Shibu Soren are on the list, apart from Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha Piyush Goyal, Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House Mallikarjun Kharge, and Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
After lunch, the top leaders will lead all MPs to the new Parliament building. Lok Sabha proceedings will begin there at 1.15 pm, while Rajya Sabha will meet at 2.15 pm. Tuesday is Ganesh Chaturthi, considered auspicious by Hindus for new beginnings.
In poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, the Congress will be launching its Jan Aakrosh (public anger) Yatra Tuesday, to highlight the “failures” of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government. The yatra will start from seven places, and collectively cover 11,400 km and all 230 seats in Madhya Pradesh over 15 days.
On Monday, the Congress plans hit a bit of a snafu as the BJP claimed that its theme song for the yatra was “stolen” from that of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. Anand Mohan J reported that the Congress hit back by sharing videos of an earlier BJP campaign song in Rajasthan and the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) campaign song in Haryana which were apparently also on lines of PTI theme songs.
The party also shared clippings from April 2019 of the Pakistan army accusing Telangana BJP MLA Raja Singh of copying the song from its Pakistan Day song to pay tributes to the Indian Army.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat will be in Lucknow for a meeting with BJP leaders and ministers, including Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, which is being held in the wake of the party’s big defeat in the recent Ghosi bypoll to the Samajwadi Party.
Bhagwat is coming on a four-day tour of Lucknow, during which he will also interact with RSS functionaries.
Parliament proceedings on Monday saw one discordant note when the rival parties of Andhra Pradesh, the YSRCP and TDP, argued over the imprisonment of TDP chief and former CM N Chandrababu Naidu over an alleged Skill Development Corporation scam. On Tuesday, the High Court will hear his bail petition.
In West Bengal, the Calcutta High Court will take up arguments from Trinamool Congress general secretary Abhishek Banerjee over summons from the Enforcement Directorate in connection with an alleged school jobs scam.
In Manipur, forces remain on high alert after a call by local groups and Meira Paibi units for a 48-hour statewide bandh, that started on Monday, for the release of five youths arrested for carrying weapons and sporting camouflage uniforms.
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On Saturday, protesters had tried to storm the Porompat police station demanding the release of the youths, prompting security forces to fire several rounds of teargas shells. Few protesters and an RAF personnel received minor injuries during the standoff.
Read: Our full coverage of the women’s reservation Bill, from the history of the legislation, the political divides and imperatives involving it, and the long road and many attempts leading up to the current moment.
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with PTI inputs