Expressing support for the women's reservation bill in Lok Sabha, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday batted for its immediate implementation and said that the legislation is "incomplete" without provision for quota for Other Backward Classes.
Participating in a discussion on the bill, Gandhi also made a strong pitch for a caste census.
He claimed that out of 90 secretaries of the government of India, only three are from the Other Backward Classes and control only five per cent of the Budget, which he said was an "insult" to the backward classes.
Recalling the discussion on Sengol and the transfer of power from the British, the former Congress chief said the revolutionary answer that the freedom movement leaders gave to the British was that the transfer of power was to the people of India.
"It's been a constant transfer of power, more and more and more power to the people of India on one side and the other side, the counter idea that takes away power from the people of India," Gandhi said.
"This is the fight that is going on. And in fact, in many ways, it is the fight that is taking place today. A huge step forward in the transfer of power to the women of India was Panchayati Raj, where they were given reservation and they were allowed to enter the political system at scale.
"And this (bill) is another step. It's a big step, it's is not a small step," the former Congress president said.
"There is one thing in my view that makes this bill incomplete. I would like to have seen the OBC reservation included in this bill," he said.
Gandhi said, "I think it is very important that a large chunk of India's population, a large chunk of India's women should have access to this reservation and that is missing in this bill."
He also said that the idea that a new census and delimitation are required to implement the bill seems "strange" to him.
This bill can be implemented today by giving 33 per cent of the seats in the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabha to India's women, Gandhi said.
"And so I wonder if this is not designed to push the ball forward? To push the ball forward by seven, eight, nine years and then let this thing play out the way it does," he said.
Taking a swipe at the BJP leaders, Gandhi said they like to divert the people's attention away from various issues.
"There is, of course, the Adani issue. They always want to take the attention away from it," he alleged.
In his remarks in the Lower House, Gandhi also took a swipe at the government over the events held around the inauguration of and the move to the new Parliament building.
"I would like to say this is quite a nice building. Nice peacocks, nice peacock feathers on the ground, nice peacock feathers on the chair. It's a nice, tasteful building. But frankly, I would have liked to see the President of India in this process," Gandhi said.
"The President of India is a woman, she represents the tribal community, and it would have been befitting to have her visible in this transfer from one House to another," he said.
Gandhi also alleged that the government likes to distract the attention of the people from the demand for caste census.
"I don't quite understand the reason. The moment the opposition raises the issue of the caste census, the BJP tries to create a new distraction, a new sudden event, so that the OBC community and the people of India look the other way," he alleged.
Gandhi said he researched to understand the participation of the OBC community in various institutions of the country.
"Ninety secretaries are responsible for managing the core of the Government of India. And I asked myself the question how many of the 90 people come from the OBC community and I was shocked and shattered by the answer…Only three are from the OBC community and control only five per cent of the Budget," he said.
"This is an insult and shame to the OBC community. So the question arises, how many OBCs, Dalits and Adivasis are there, and the answer to that is through the caste census," he said.
Gandhi urged the government to bring the reservation for women into effect immediately, contending that census and delimitation were not required for it.
He also called on the government to change the situation where out of 90 secretaries only three are from the OBC community.
"So, I urge you to get a caste census done. Release the data of the caste census we had gotten done and if you don't, we will do it," he said.
Later in a post in Hindi on X, Gandhi said, "Out of 90 secretaries of the Government of India, only 3 secretaries belong to the OBC community. They are responsible for just 5% of the country's budget. Not a single secretary was from the OBC community in 2019!"
"The government should implement the women's reservation bill today itself. And, Mr. Prime Minister, do not be afraid of the caste census," Gandhi said.
Earlier in the day, initiating the debate on the bill from the opposition's side, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi extended her party's support to it but demanded that the quota be implemented immediately and provision made for reservation for OBC women.
After the House proceedings began, Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal on Wednesday moved the women's reservation bill for consideration and passage in the Lok Sabha, saying it is a step towards women empowerment.
The constitutional amendment bill was introduced in the Lower House on Tuesday and was passed in the House after the debate. It was the first bill introduced in the new Parliament building.
The bill provides for 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. The reservation will come into effect only after the completion of the census and delimitation exercise.