Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader Kalvakuntla Kavitha said the Women’s Reservation Bill will inspire many women around the world to come forward in public life and called on women across continents to mobilise around the issue.
During an interaction organised by the think tank Bridge India in London on Friday night, the BRS Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) addressed a diaspora audience at Central Hall Westminster near the Houses of Parliament on the topic of ‘Gender Equality in India’s Political Representation’.
The daughter of Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, who was virtually mobbed by the cheering diaspora crowds, highlighted the progress made in her own state that is leading the way in the representation of women in politics.
“We are the world’s most populous nation, and we are about 70 crore women; if a very positive change were to happen to the women of our nation, I believe the world should know because that will inspire many, many, many more women to come forward in public life, to become active participants in policy making,” Kavitha told PTI with reference to her London tour.
The Women’s Reservation Bill, which seeks to provide 33 per cent reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, received the Parliamentary nod on September 21. President Droupadi Murmu gave her assent to the bill on September 28.
“This bill, I’m very confident, will enable that to happen to the women of our nation, India, and India’s progress will see more and more participation of women, that is the hope,” the 45-year-old politician said.
Asked about stronger representation of women within political parties in the country, she admitted that parties have traditionally been slow in addressing the matter satisfactorily.
“I would say India is a much younger democracy, which is 75 years old. There are many democracies across the globe which are 200 years old or more who have still not been able to reach the extent and level of women participation that we have reached today,” she said.
“But that being said, the parties have to take the onus on themselves to make sure more and more women come in. And obviously, it’s not happening, so it is for the Election Commission to step in. It is for more laws to be put in place to protect the places for women,” she noted.
During her charged address that drew applause and cheers from the crowd, Kavitha said it “pained” her to state that inequality in public life is a reality around the world. She traced the journey of the Women’s Reservation Bill that she had been campaigning for and was passed in the Lok Sabha last month – from former prime minister Deve Gowda in 1996 to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2023.
“I sincerely thank all of them from the bottom of my heart for making this bill a reality. This is not just politics, but this is the respect these people have shown to the women of this great nation,” she said.
She added, “When I say Women’s Reservation Bill, it is not only to make 181 women members of Parliament, but it is about billions and billions of women. When we talk about women, countries don’t matter, there are no borders.” “Across the globe, I don’t know how men managed to subjugate us for centuries. Now, the time has come that women across continents should connect, and should take up these issues. Today, if India has this bill and some other country does not, I think it is the duty of Indian women to go help our sisters there,” she said.
During some light-hearted moments in her hard-hitting speech, she acknowledged her very “strong opinions” and cautioned men to get used to hearing many more strong opinions from “our sisters”.
She also referenced the Koh-i-Noor diamond, which has a connection to Telangana, given its roots in the Golconda mines. The MLC said while the discussion over the return of the infamous diamond to India will “go on forever”, “at least give us back Vijay Mallya” – referencing the former Kingfisher Airlines chief based in the UK and wanted in India on fraud and money laundering charges.
Earlier on Friday, Kavitha commenced her tour to the UK with a visit to the Ambedkar Museum in north London and spoke of how she drew great inspiration from the principles of the architect of the Indian Constitution in her fight for gender equality.
MLC Kavitha’s itinerary in the UK includes engagements with Indian diaspora groups, discussions on collaborative initiatives and participation in events to foster cultural exchange between the two countries.