Kharge’s ‘weak women’ remarks trigger heated exchange in RS

NEW DELHI: Congress president and leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge stirred a row on Tuesday after saying that political parties have a tendency to choose “weak women candidates”. He didn’t single out any particular political party.
Speaking in Rajya Sabha on the women’s reservation bill tabled by the government earlier today, Kharge said that women belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have lower literacy rates and that’s why political parties have a habit of choosing “weak women” candidates over those who are educated and can fight.
He was referring to the provision wherein 33% of the total House/assembly seats reserved for SC/ST communities will be set aside for women once the quota comes into force.
Kharge’s statement drew instant backlash from the treasury benches in Rajya Sabha.
Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that Kharge shouldn’t make such a sweeping statement about political parties.
“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, PM. President Droupadi Murmu is an empowered woman,” she said.
Responding to Sitharaman, Kharge said: “Women belonging to backward classes, scheduled caste women do not get the kind the opportunities she (Sitharaman) gets”.
Sitharaman again objected and asked, “Who is Droupadi Murmu? Opposition leader cannot insult people like this, cannot draw a differentiation between women … We are asking for reservation for all women”.
After the intervention of Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar, House proceedings continued.
Kharge then said he welcomes the women’s reservation bill titled Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam.
Later, Kharge referred to the remarks made by Prime Minister Modi regarding federal structure and competitive federalism in the country and alleged, “Federal structure is being weakened under your leadership day-by-day”.
This statement was vociferously objected to by BJP members.
Parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi said the Prime Minister’s speech was totally “apolitical”, unbiased and balanced, and urged Kharge to speak in the House like a “statesman”.
The senior Congress leader accused the central government of engineering the fall of governments led by opposition parties in states like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
This remark too was vehemently objected to by the ruling party MPs.
Kharge also accused the central government of delaying GST dues to the non-BJP state governments and also grants for welfare schemes like MNREGA.
However, finance minister Sitharaman challenged the statement regarding the payments of dues.
“A factually incorrect statement has been made by the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) wherein he’s saying that GST revenue is not given to the states on time. This is absolutely wrong,” she said.
The minister also told the House that her ministry even borrowed money and paid to the states.
“Three times we have paid the money in advance. There is no money pending for any state in GST and there is no delay in payment to the states. It is wrong on the part of the LoP to blame like this,” Sitharaman added.
Chairman Dhankhar asked both the finance minister and Leader of the Opposition to table documents in supporting their remarks on the table of the House during the course of the day.
Kharge’s remarks that the Prime Minister can speak for 2-3 hours but will not say anything on the Manipur situation also evoked a sharp reaction from the BJP members.
Earlier, Kharge said that though PM Modi doesn’t give them credit, the women quota bill was already cleared by Rajya Sabha in 2010 during UPA rule but it couldn’t be passed due to obstables in Lok Sabha.
In his big first announcement from the new Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that the Union Cabinet has cleared the women’s reservation bill at a meeting on Monday.
The bill, called Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, was later tabled in Lok Sabha by Union minister Arjun Ram Meghwal.
The bill proposes 33 per cent reservation for women in Lok Sabha and state assemblies.
(With inputs from PTI)

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