A day before her scheduled appearance before the Enforcement Directorate in the Delhi excise policy case, Bharat Rashtra Samiti leader K Kavitha led a hunger strike here on Friday seeking the passage of the long-pending Women's Reservation Bill in this Budget session of Parliament.
Kavitha, the daughter of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, appealed to all political parties to put pressure on the government on this issue in Parliament, and noted that the Modi government has full majority and can easily pass the bill before the end of its term if it wishes.
She also requested President Droupadi Murmu to take interest in the matter and stand with women.
The bill seeks to reserve 33 per cent seats in Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies for women.
The six-hour hunger strike programme at Jantar Mantar was inaugurated by Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury.
Sanjay Singh (Aam Aadmi Party), Naresh Gujral (Shiromani Akali Dal), Shamima Firdous (National Conference), Subhasini Ali (CPI-M), Pooja Shukla (Samajwadi Party), Seema Malik (Nationalist Congress Party), Anjum Javed Mirza (People's Democratic Party), Narayana K (Communist Party of India) and Shyam Rajak (Rashtriya Janata Dal) joined the event, while some other leaders extended support via online.
Women ministers, MPs and MLAs of the BRS, including Telangana Education Minister Sabitha Indra Reddy and Women and Child Welfare Minister Satyavathi Rathod, were also present.
Some representatives from the Women Truck Drivers' Association as well as different communities such as Gujjar and Dalit and student unions also participated in the strike that concluded at 4 pm.
In her concluding remark, Kavitha said, "All parties talk about it, but no one takes step towards passage of this bill. This government has full majority and if it wishes it can pass this bill in two hours."
The issue does not relate to an individual or a state but the entire country, she said.
The country cannot progress if women are not given adequate representation in politics, she said and appealed to all political parties to put pressure on the government to bring this bill in the Budget session of Parliament.
The second leg of the Budget session of Parliament will start on March 13 and end on April 6.
Kavitha emphasised that the protest will continue across the country till the passage of this bill.
She said a letter with signatures of those who attended the strike event will be sent to the president and the prime minister demanding early passage of the bill.
Earlier in the day, Kavitha told the gathering, "If India needs to develop at the speed the world is developing, women should play a key role in politics.
"Women should get more representation in politics for which it is important to bring this bill that has been pending for 27 years."
"Many political parties tried to bring this bill since 1996, but it could not be passed in Parliament. Leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Sonia Gandhi and Brinda Karat had led struggles to make it possible," she said.
"I feel elated to have an opportunity to take this movement forward. I promise the women of India that we will continue this protest until the bill is introduced and passed," she said.
"We demand that the BJP government introduces this bill, we will bring all the political parties together and will try supporting you in Parliament," she added.
In his inaugural address, Yechury said, "We have come here to assure that our party will extend support to Kavitha in this protest till the bill is passed in Parliament. It is important to bring this bill to give equal opportunity to women in politics."
"When he entered Parliament for the first time in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said his government's priority would be the Women's Reservation Bill. It has been nine years now, this bill has not been introduced again in Parliament," he said.
"After much efforts, the government gave reservation for women in Panchayats."
"If you can give reservation for women in Panchayats, why not in Parliament," he asked and added a country will not progress unless women are given equal opportunity in social, economic and political spheres.
"It is important to bring this bill in the current session of Parliament and the CPI-M will stand besides the BRS in this protest," he added.
Sanjay Singh of the AAP said the bill was mentioned in the BJP manifesto but yet it has not been passed.
"Bring this bill in the current session of Parliament and all parties will support it," he said.
He also alleged that instead of bringing this bill, the Modi government is using agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to target opposition leaders.
"We are not scared of ED or CBI. We will fight and win. Today, the government is working for a few corporates," he added.
Naresh Gujral said, "When PM talks about nari shakti (women power), why is this bill not passed? Today BJP talks about Amrit Kaal, but Amrit Kaal will be successful if women is given reservation."
RJD leader Shyam Rajak said Indian democracy cannot be strengthened without adequate political representation of women.
Reservation for women should be more than 33 per cent in Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies.
Kavitha had on Thursday said the hunger strike was planned a week before but the Enforcement Directorate summoned her to depose before it on March 9, just a day before the agitation. The agency agreed to her request to appear on March 11 after the agitation.
The BRS leader has been summoned by the ED in connection with a money laundering case linked to alleged irregularities in the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy for 2021-22.