New Delhi: Government`s efforts to ensure
early passage of the Women`s Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha
today received a setback with its ally Trinamool Congress
joining Samajwadi Party, RJD and JD(U) in opposing the
proposed legislation in the present form.
An all-party meeting called here to break the logjam
over the bill failed as differences persisted, prompting even
UPA allies and those supporting the proposed legislation not
to rush through its introduction till there is consensus.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee held two-hour-long
deliberations with leaders of SP, RJD, JD(U), BSP, who are
strongly opposed to 33 per cent reservation for women in Lok
Sabha and Assemblies as envisaged in the bill.
The meeting was also attended by Leader of Opposition
Sushma Swaraj and leaders of Left parties, which are backing
the legislation. UPA allies NCP, DMK and NC also attended.
On the government`s side, Mukherjee was joined by Home
Minister P Chidambaram, Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K
Bansal, Defence Minister A K Antony and Law Minister Veerappa
After the meeting, it was decided that further
discussions would be held, a statement which indicated that
the bill may not be introduced in the Lok Sabha in the second
half of the Budget Session beginning on April 15.
The bill, a constitutional amendment legislation
requiring two-third majority support, has already been passed
by the Rajya Sabha.
Sources said that leaders of political parties who attended the meeting told the government the bill should not be passed in the Lok Sabha by using marshals -- a reference to its passage in the Rajya Sabha when marshals escorted out those members opposing the bill and squatting in the house.
Some allies of the Congress, including the DMK and Nationalist Congress Party, also emphasised that the legislation should be passed in a cordial atmosphere in the lower house of parliament.
Some parties took exception to Moily`s remarks during interviews that the government was committed to the bill in its present form. They said that such views contradicted the purpose of the consultation process.
According to sources, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be apprised of the outcome of the discussions after which the government will again speak with the opposition parties.
The meeting saw strong opposition being expressed by SP
chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad and JD(U)
leader Sharad Yadav, who maintained that they would not dilute
their demand for quota for minorities, backwards and dalits
within 33 per cent reservation as proposed in the bill.
They got a shot in the arm, with Trinamool Congress
leader Mamata Banerjee also favouring quota for minorities.
Significantly, after the all-party meeting, she briefly
met the Yadav trio after which they jointly met Mukherjee
again to convey their views.
CPI(M), which has been supporting the bill, also said
that it had no objection to providing sub-quota in the bill if
the government came with a proper proposal. This was seen by
the opponents as support for their demand.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj said the party was not in favour of quota-within-quota. She said the party will oppose the use of marshals during discussion or voting on the bill in the house.
Swaraj said if the government comes up with any proposal, the party would be willing to consider it.
Shiv Sena leader Anant G. Geete said his party was not against reservation for women but political parties should have the right to decide seats.
A brief statement issued by the Parliamentary Affairs
Ministry after the all-party meeting merely said that "further
discussion will continue" on the bill.
Emerging from the meeting, RJD chief Lalu Prasad said
any kind of reservation for women should include muslims,
backward classes and dalits.
"There is no question of going back on our position," he