The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the women’s reservation bill. A total of 452 MPs voted in its favour, while two legislators opposed it.

The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023 reserves one-third of the seats in Lok Sabha and state Assemblies for women. The provision will also be applicable as a sub-quota within the seats already reserved for the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe categories. However, there is no such provision for the Other Backward Classes.

The reservation for women in Lok Sabha and state Assemblies will be effective only after a census is conducted, followed by a delimitation exercise or the redrawing of boundaries to the constituencies. A Census was slated to be conducted in 2021, but has been delayed three times since then.

The bill was introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday at the beginning of the Special Session of the Parliament.

On Wednesday, Congress Parliamentary Party chairperson Sonia Gandhi initiated the debate on the bill from the Opposition’s side saying that her party supports the women’s reservation bill but demands a reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes within the 33% quota.

She also demanded the immediate implementation of the bill.

“Indian women have been waiting for their political responsibilities for the last 13 years,” she added. “Now they are being asked to wait for a few more years. How many years? Is this behaviour with Indian women appropriate?”

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that the bill was a big step, but suggested that there was no need to wait for the census and delimitation exercise.

“My suggestion to the government is to implement the women’s reservation bill today,” he said. “There is no need for census and delimitation for this. You should directly give 33% reservation to women.”

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP Kanimozhi remarked that the drafting and tabling of the bill was shrouded by a veil of secrecy.

“I would like to know what consensus was built, what discussions were held?” Kanimozhi asked. “We did not know why this Session was called for. At the all-party leaders’ meeting [on Sunday] there was no mention of this bill... I don’t know if any of the political leaders were called for deliberations. Suddenly the bill popped up on our computers. Is this going to be the way this government will function?”

She also pointed out that the bill is not about reservation but is an act of removing bias and injustice.

“This bill is called the ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam’,” the DMK MP said. “Stop saluting us. We don’t want to be saluted, we don’t want to be put on pedestals, we do not want to be worshipped...We want to be respected as equals.”

Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that for the Bharatiya Janata Party, women’s empowerment was not a matter of politics.

“For my party and my leader PM [Narendra] Modi this is not a political issue but an issue of recognition,” he said. “Women’s security, respect and equal participation have been the life force of government since PM Modi took the oath of office.”

Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal said that the provision for implementing 33% reservation for women after census and delimitation was in line with the Constitution. “We will not allow the bill to get stuck in technical issues,” he said, according to PTI.