Kavitha, the daughter of Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, has sent letters to as many as 47 political parties urging them to unite and pass the long-awaited Bill, which seeks to reserve 33 per cent of seats in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies for women.
The former MP from Nizamabad, who had raised the issue with a protest in New Delhi in March, addressed the letters to all, irrespective of their political ideology and urged them to set aside political differences and prioritise the passage.
“The upcoming special session of Parliament presents a unique opportunity for us, as representatives of the people, to take a historic step forward. It is my sincere hope that all political parties in India will rise above partisan interests and unite in support of the Women’s Reservation Bill, which has languished in legislative limbo for far too long,” she wrote.
The member of Telangana Legislative Council addressed the letters to BJP president J.P. Nadda, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, Telugu Desam Party chief N. Chandrababu Naidu, Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad Yadav, Samajwadi party leader Akhilesh Yadav, BSP leader Mayawati, CPI (M) leader Seetharam Yechury and Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi.
She also sent the letter to YSR Congress Party president and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, Aam Admi Party leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, DMK leder and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. K. Stalin, TMC leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Janata Dal(United) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, JMM leader and Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, BJD leader and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
In her letter, Kavitha underscored the pivotal role women play in Indian discourse and the pressing need for their representation in legislative bodies.
“Women constitute approximately 50 per cent of our population and play a pivotal role in every aspect of our society. Yet, when it comes to legislative representation in state assemblies and in our national Parliament, their presence remained woefully inadequate. This glaring display hampers our nation’s progress and undermines the principles of democracy upon which our great country is built,” she wrote.
Kavitha emphasised the importance of inclusivity in our democracy, asserting that increased women's representation is not a matter of exclusivity but a means to build a more equitable and balanced political landscape.
She urged all political parties to recognise the urgency of this matter and throw their weight behind the Women's Reservation Bill.
The MLC stated that increased representation of women in politics not only empowers them but also serves as an inspiration for millions of young girls across the country.
Women often bring unique perspectives and priorities to the table. Their participation in legislative discussions leads to a more holistic and balanced approach to policy making. This, in turn, benefits our society as a whole, she wrote.
She highlighted the proof of concept provided by the 14 lakh women already active in public life, demonstrating their ability to lead and govern effectively.
A day after writing the letter, Kavitha found fault with Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi for not including Women's Reservation Bill in the issues mentioned in her letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a debate during a special session of the Parliament.
"Saddened to see that the urgency for discussing the Women's Reservation Bill was completely ignored in Congress Parliamentary Party Chairperson and MP Smt. Sonia Gandhi Ji's letter to the Prime Minister,” she said.
“In your letter to PM Modi, we find 9 crucial issues, but why not the Women’s Reservation Bill? Isn't women's representation a national imperative?” asked Kavitha.
Kavitha sat on a hunger strike in March in New Delhi demanding the tabling and passing of the Women's Reservation Bill. She had been engaging with political parties and civil society organisations across India to escalate the demand for the Bill.
A few days ago, she had announced her plans for another protest in the national capital during the winter session of the Parliament.
She said leaders of both BJP and Congress will be invited.
The BRS leader had made this announcement when Congress and BJP mocked her protest after BRS named only six women in 115 candidates announced for coming Assembly elections in Telangana.
Union Minister for tourism G. Kishan Reddy, who is also state BJP president, had targeted BRS for giving tickets to only six women while declaring candidates for 115 out of 119 Assembly seats.
Referring to Kavitha's protest in the national capital demanding passing of the Women's Reservation Bill in Parliament, he asked why BRS was not implementing reservation for women.
“Bangaru Kutumbam Family members created drama in Jantar Mantar demanding for 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament. In Bangaru Kutumbam Mathematics 33 per cent reservation led to 6 seats (3+3= 6) being given for women by the BRS party this time,” he wrote on X.
Kavitha had alleged that both BJP and Congress have no intention to pass women’s reservation Bill in Parliament.
She said only legislation can increase women’s representation in the Parliament and state Assemblies.
"I am happy that the parties which did not respond to dharna then are now responding. But it is unfortunate that instead of addressing the real issue, they are trying to play a political game,” she said.
She wondered why the parties were attacking her instead of asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi why he had not passed the Bill despite two full terms.
Kavitha wanted to know what Congress has done since 2010 to pass the Bill. She asked why Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi never spoke on the issue
Kavitha announced that she will stage a protest again at Jantar Mantar during the winter session of the Parliament in December to demand passage of the women's reservation Bill.
“I will invite Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Smriti Irani and D K Aruna to join the protest. Let us see who is sincere and who is not,” she said.
Stating that only a legislation can enhance women’s representation in the legislative bodies, she pointed out that 44 lakh women came into the local bodies only after a legislation was made. She said that except BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, all states are giving 33 per cent reservation to women in local bodies.
Kavitha asked if women should confine themselves to being sarpanches and ZPTCs.
Kavitha’s initiative of sending a letter to leaders of all political parties has received mixed response. While some have welcomed it, others asked her to prove her sincerity by prevailing on her father KCR to increase women representation in Telangana Assembly.
YSR Telangana Party (YSRTP) leader Y. S. Sharmila wrote a reply to Kavitha’s letter by suggesting her to start the change from Telangana
"I fail to understand how you can take this fight to the national platform, without doing justice to women in Telangana. In the three successive Assembly elections or since the formation of Telangana State, your party did not allocate more than 5 per cent tickets to women candidates. This is a glaring irony that the daughter of a chief minister does not question her father over this gross underrepresentation of women in the State Assembly, as well as in his cabinet, but will wage a relentless battle in Delhi," wrote YSRTP leader.
She alleged that the BRS government adopted double standards over the issue.
"Do you realise that in 2014 your party gave tickets to women in just 5 per cent Assembly seats, while you shamefully plunged to a further low in 2018, when women representation was just 4 per cent. Why did you never raise your voice against this as a woman? Why was only one woman, you, the daughter of the party president, was given a ticket fight in Lok Sabha elections in 2014? And why this number did not go beyond 2 candidates, again one among the two being you, in 2019?," Sharmila asked
Sharmila also wanted to know from Kavitha why there was not even a single woman minister in her father’s first-term rule.
"Finally, what makes you press this urgency button now, after whiling away for ages? Is it the upcoming Telangana elections? Or, is it because your party feels the Bill may be tabled in this Parliament session? So, you want to take credit for this?" asked Sharmila.