The Rajya Sabha convened in its inaugural session at the new Parliament building, where a heated exchange unfolded between Mallikarjun Kharge and Nirmala Sitharaman. The dispute was ignited by Kharge's comments suggesting that political parties often select "less-educated" women. Particularly those from marginalized communities, as candidates, implying they are “weaker choices”.
Kharge is the Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House, Kharge pointed out that women hailing from backward and scheduled castes often possess lower literacy rates. This circumstance frequently influences political parties to select them as their candidates in elections.
During the session, the Congress leader stated, "They (parties) won't choose those who are educated and capable of fighting. I know how political parties select candidates from the backward and scheduled caste communities." His remarks sparked protests from treasury members, who expressed their objections to his statements.
Kharge delivered his speech in the Upper House following the introduction of the new Women's Reservation Bill by Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal during the inaugural session of the Lok Sabha in the newly constructed Parliament complex earlier in the day.
Following Kharge's comments, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman voiced a vehement objection, labeling Kharge's "sweeping statement" as "utterly unacceptable."
"We respect the leader of the Opposition but to make a sweeping statement that all parties choose women who are not effective is absolutely unacceptable. We all have been empowered by our party, by our Prime Minister. Rashtrapati Droupadi Murmu ji is an empowered woman,” Sitharaman said.
In a counterattack against the Congress, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman criticized Kharge's comments, suggesting they mirror the mindset of the opposition party. She pointed out that Congress has had women presidents but still struggles to nominate empowered women as candidates. Sitharaman strongly objected to Kharge's sweeping generalization of all political parties.
In response to Sitharaman's objections, Kharge clarified, "We are saying that women from backward and Scheduled Tribes (ST) backgrounds don't often receive the opportunities they are currently getting." Meanwhile, discussions regarding the passage of the Nari Shakti Vandana Adhiniyam Bill in the House are scheduled for tomorrow, marking the third day of the ongoing five-day special session. The Bill will be deliberated in the Rajya Sabha on September 21.
The Women Reservation Bill aims to establish a 33 percent quota for women in both the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies. The provision for women's reservation in these key political bodies has long been a commitment made by various political parties, including the BJP, over the course of several years.
Image source: ToI