New Delhi: Days before the winter session of Parliament begins, Congress president Rahul Gandhi wrote to state governments, where it is in power either on its own, or as an alliance partner, asking them to pass a resolution urging the Centre to pass the women’s reservation bill at the earliest.

The move is significant, considering it is the last full session of Parliament under the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government. As India heads for the 2019 general elections, the Congress-led Opposition could use this opportunity to raise the pitch on its pro-women agenda.

“In order to affirm our support to the passage of the bill, it would be expedient for the state assembly to pass a resolution calling for the reservation of one-third of the seats in the Lok Sabha and legislative assembly for women, in the next session," Gandhi said in a letter to Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh.

The bill, which seeks to set aside 33% seats in Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies for women, was introduced in 1996, but has not been passed in Parliament. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), despite its majority in Lok Sabha, was unable to get the law passed in its 10 years in power.

In the letter dated 6 December, Gandhi said that though the Rajya Sabha had passed the Constitution 108th Amendment Bill in 2010, it lapsed after the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2014. “The Congress and several parties have called on the Prime Minister to ensure the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill and pledged their support."

According to a senior party leader, a copy of the letter has also been sent to chief ministers of Karnataka and Puducherry. In the letter, Gandhi added that the legislative assemblies of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh have already ‘taken a lead’ and have passed a similar resolution.

Of late, Congress has been raising the issue of women’s reservation in the Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies. Ahead of the monsoon session, Gandhi had written to Modi asking him to ensure the passage of the Bill. In August, while speaking at an event organised by the Congress’ women wing, Gandhi had said that women will be appointed in at least 50% of the party’s post in the future.

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