MPs, spouses dine with Madam Sonia

Congress president Sonia Gandhi generally hosts a lunch or dinner for her party MPs during each session of Parliament. But it was different this time–the MPs’ spouses too were invited. And some of the male MPs could not help but wonder if it was yet another signal that Gandhi meant business when she talked about empowering the women of India.

Congress ministers and office-bearers of the AICC were also invited. “It’s good that we have been invited with our wives this time,” chuckled Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal before leaving for 10, Janpath.

Though the Congress is trying to take all the credit for the historic legislation that was passed in the Rajya Sabha last Tuesday, there is unease with some of the male MPs worried about their political future once the Bill turns into a law and 33 per cent of the seats in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies are reserved for women. With the Bill being projected as something close to Sonia’s heart, none in the party has so far dared to give vent to the concerns over the move. But Gandhi is aware of the disquiet. When some male MPs congratulated her after the Bill was passed in the Upper House, she asked them if they were really happy about it.

The Congress chief and other senior leaders spoke to the MPs, trying to convince them about the importance of the legislation in the larger interest of empowerment of women across the country.

Some of the male MPs are believed to have tried to introduce their wives to Gandhi and other top leaders of the Congress in what appeared to be first steps towards ensuring party tickets for their better halves should their constituency get reserved for women before the next elections.

And Gandhi did not disappoint them. According to insiders, she spent most of her time this evening with the MPs’ wives, playing a courteous host and asking almost everyone if they liked the food. She even asked some what they felt about the Women’s Reservation Bill.

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