Rahul Gandhi makes big claims on women empowerment: Will he walk the talk?

Lately, the issues the Congress president has raised against the BJP have only served to expose his and his party’s weaknesses.

 |  4-minute read |   09-08-2018
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Whatever issues Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been raising of late seem to boomerang on him and his party. While addressing the ‘Mahila Adhikar Sammelan’ at Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi on August 7, he lashed out at the BJP, and accused its parent body, the RSS, of being a “male chauvinist organisation”.

Rahul claimed that in the days to come, the Congress’s vision was to give 50 per cent representation to women in the party at all levels — right from leadership in village panchayats to district, Assembly, Parliament and AICC levels.

If Rahul Gandhi is serious about gender issues, he should have given more representation to women in the Congress Working Committee. If Rahul Gandhi is serious about gender issues, he should have given more representation to women in the Congress Working Committee. (Photo: PTI/file)

The Congress president accused the RSS of being shut for women, and promised to extend the Congress’s full support to the passage of the women’s reservation Bill. He added that if the Modi government did not bring up the legislation in the Lok Sabha, the Congress would do so soon after coming to power.

This is not the first occasion in recent times that Rahul has raised the women’s reservation Bill. On July 16, he wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to get the Bill passed by Parliament and offering the Congress’s unconditional support.

Rahul also asked Modi to ensure that the Bill was passed in the ongoing Monsoon Session itself, so that women could participate “more meaningfully” in the state elections later this year and in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress president claimed that the women’s reservation Bill, passed by the Rajya Sabha on March 9, 2010, had been blocked in the Lok Sabha on one pretext or the other for more than eight years. Claiming that the Congress had been unwavering in its commitment to the Bill, he attacked the BJP for not showing the same commitment.

Rahul Gandhi’s tall claims notwithstanding, the Congress’s record in matters of women empowerment is under scrutiny.

The Congress Working Committee was reconstituted on July 17 with Rahul as the party president. Only seven women, including Rahul’s mother Sonia Gandhi, were included in the new 51-member CWC.

Though Rahul demands the passage of the women’s reservation Bill — which provides for 33 per cent reservation in Parliament and in state Assemblies — he appointed just 13 per cent women in the highest decision-making body of his party.

And if Sonia Gandhi is excluded from the team, the CWC has only 11 per cent women — a far cry from the 33 per cent of the Bill, and even further from Rahul’s promise of 50 per cent representation.

If Rahul was serious about his demand, he would have led by example and given at least 33 per cent representation to women in the CWC, or in other departments and cells of his party.

Further, the women’s reservation Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha on March 9, 2010. The Congress remained in power for four more years after that. However, the UPA government failed to get the Bill passed in the Lok Sabha, under pressure from its own alliance partners such as the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Janata Dal (United).

Rahul today is demanding from the BJP the commitment his own party failed to show.

Going further back — though Rahul was not in politics then — the Congress government led by his father, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, did disappoint Muslim women of the country, when the Parliament, in 1986, overturned the Supreme Court’s order in the Shah Bano case and dealt a blow to the rights of divorced Muslim women.

The Modi government, on the other hand, has supported their cause. The government was seen standing by the side of Muslim women when the Supreme Court declared instant triple talaq unconstitutional and struck it down.

Not just women’s empowerment, even the other issues Rahul has raised have only served to expose his and his party’s weaknesses.

The French government refuted Rahul's claims on the Rafale deal. The French government refuted Rahul's claims on the Rafale deal. (Photo: ANI)

Recently, he raised the Rafale deal during the debate on the No Confidence Motion in the Lok Sabha, accusing the Modi government of maintaining unnecessary secrecy over the price of the fighter aircraft. Rahul claimed that the French president had personally told him that there was no secrecy pact between the two countries. However, in a major embarrassment, and within minutes, the French government refuted his claims.

In another episode earlier this year, Rahul had launched a personal attack on PM Modi and lamented the “treatment meted out” to senior BJP leaders, such as former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani. Rahul said he was the first one to visit ailing Vajpayee at Delhi’s AIIMS. He also said he felt sad for Advani.

However, the Congress’s record in treating its own senior leaders has been poor. It has been accused of ill-treating its dissenting leaders, including former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, even after his death.

The party leadership did not show respect to Rao when he died on December 23, 2004, in New Delhi. His body was not allowed to enter the All India Congress Committee (AICC) compound. His carriage was parked on the pavement outside the party headquarters’ gate.

The Congress and Rahul Gandhi need to walk the talk before pointing fingers at the BJP, the RSS and PM Modi.

Also read: Rajya Sabha deputy chairman polls: Time for Rahul Gandhi to hug his 2019 dreams goodbye?


Kumar Shakti Shekhar Kumar Shakti Shekhar @shaktishekhar

Delhi-based journalist with more than 20 years of experience in reporting for print, TV & digital media.

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