Women’s quota bill in RS; voting deferred after protests

The historic Women’s Reservation Bill was on Monday tabled in the Rajya Sabha amid continuing opposition by those opposed to the bill.

Updated: Mar 08, 2010, 18:11 PM IST

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: The historic bill providing for 33 percent reservation for women in Lok Sabha and state assemblies was Monday moved in the Rajya Sabha for consideration, but owing to the vociferous opposition by the SP and the RJD the government is likely to postpone voting on it till tomorrow.

The bill- brought in to coincide with the International Women`s Day - has the strong backing of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and has become a prestige issue for the government as it had gone all out to ensure that it gets through the Rajya Sabha today.

And, despite garnering the support of major opposition parties like the BJP and the Left, the government could not get the bill passed due to the strong opposition by a handful of MPs belonging to the Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Lok Jan Shakti Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. The MPs from these parties forced five adjournments of the Rajya Sabha, they are demanding a quota within the quota for women from Dalit, OBC and minority community.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself has stepped into the issue to ensure the passing of the bill and had convened an all-party meeting to work out modalities of passing the historic bill.

But, as per reports, some of the UPA constituents have now expressed concerns about the bill. The DMK and the Trinamool Congress have reportedly told the PM to take the concerns of the dalits and minorities into consideration – Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are due for poll later in the year.

Now the all-party meeting in all probability will be held tonight or early tomorrow and later followed by voting in the Rajya Sabha.

Meanwhile, the Left and the BJP, after indicating that they were willing to vote on the bill without a discussion, now say that the Parliament should discuss the issue before voting.

The situation will be clear at 6 pm when the Rajya Sabha reconvenes.

Clearly, the government is embarrassed and is now trying to deflect the blame on the parties opposed to the bill.

On the fate of the bill, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, “The question is only, not if. It’s an idea whose idea has come. It’s inevitable despite all the churlish opposition.”

“It (bill) will become a reality despite a small group that is bringing shame to the Indian polity. These parties donot understand public sentiment,” said Singhvi.

Earlier, the bill was moved for consideration in the Rajya Sabha amidst unprecedented scenes of pandemonium with members of the SP, BSP and the RJD trying to attack Chairman Hamid Ansari.

In a dramatic sequence of events, as soon as Ansari asked Law Minister M Veerapa Moily to table the bill for consideration and passage, a dozen members opposing the legislation tore off the document into shreds, hurled them at Chairman Hamid Ansari.

The MPs from the Samajwadi Party (SP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) – who are demanding a quota within the quota for women from Dalit, OBC and minority community - started shouting slogans and moving towards Ansari`s podium. By that time, Moily had already moved the bill.

Angry, the protesting MPs created a ruckus and snatched the bill from him and tore it off. Rolling them into balls, some of the MPs flung them all around. Some torn papers were thrown at the chairman.

Nand Kishore Yadav of the SP tried to climb up to the chairman`s desk but was prevented by a marshal.

Subhash Yadav of the RJD was seen attempting to assault the parliament secretary general who was seated below the chairman`s podium.

Ansari first adjourned the house till 3 pm and later as soon as the house reconvened; adjourned till 4 pm. The Rajya Sabha has been adjourned till 6 pm.

The bill is expected to come up for voting when the house reconvenes. Meanwhile, the Lok Sabha has been adjourned for the day over the issue.

Meanwhile, the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal have also announced their decision to withdraw support to the UPA government over the issue.

The RJD and SP together have 26 MPs in the Lok Sabha and 16 MPs in the Rajya Sabha.
Both parties have been supporting the UPA government from outside.

However, the technical part of withdrawing their support remains till they submit a letter to President Pratibha Patil.

The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, proposes to give 33 percent reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

A Constitution amendment needs a two-thirds majority
in voting requiring the support of 155 MPs in Rajya Sabha for
its passage. The bill has clear backing of at least 165 MPs in
the House with an effective strength of 233.

Those opposed to the bill: The BSP and SP, have 12
members each in Rajya Sabha while RJD has 4 and JD(S) has 2 MPs.

Apart from the SP, RJD, BSP and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), lone MP from the Majlis-e Ittihad ul-Muslimin (MIM) Asaduddin Owaisi is opposing the bill in its current form.