Women's Bill stumbles yet again

MPs tear up copies in both Houses; PM to meet Mulayam, Lalu and Sharad Yadav today

Women's Bill stumbles yet again

As a result, the Bill that has generated intense debate within and outside Parliament over the past 13 years remained stuck in limbo and its future as uncertain as it has been all these years.

Amid high drama, when anti-Bill members disrupted proceedings in both Houses of Parliament throughout the day, the Congress-led UPA government took a safe route, refraining from putting the constitutional amendment Bill to vote.

The action-packed day saw angry MPs in the Upper House tearing copies of the Bill, jumping on the table and attempting to snatch papers from Chairman Hamid Ansari –– reminiscent of scenes the country witnessed over the bill in the Lok Sabha way back in 1996.

Leaders such as Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav, Rashrtiya Janata Dal’s Lalu Prasad and Janata Dal-United’s  (JD-U) Sharad Yadav as well as those from the Bahujan Samaj Party stormed the Lok Sabha well to stall any forward movement on the legislative process.

Having failed to win over the protesting MPs, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held parlays with leaders of most parties, following which a meeting with the three Yadavs –– Mulayam, Lalu and Sharad –– was convened for Tuesday.

But at the end of the day, the Bill’s fate is uncertain and it is doubtful whether the government will muster enough courage and political will to take push the proposed legislation.

As a direct consequence of the government going ahead with the Bill, the SP and RJD announced they would withdraw support to the UPA government. However, Lalu later told Deccan Herald that his party will review its position if the government decided not to press the Bill on Tuesday.

The BJP and the Left parties, which have lent support to the UPA on the Bill, were critical of the government’s reluctance to press for the vote.
We oppose:  Shiromani Akali Dal MP Harsimrat Kaur smiles as Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and RJD Chief Lalu Prasad come out of Parliament protesting against Women's Reservation Bill in New Delhi on Monday. PTI Opposition Leader in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said the government had betrayed the faith the pro-Bill parties had reposed in it. But more important, his deputy in the House S S Ahluwalia said the BJP would now insist on a discussion before the vote. The party had pledged to vote for the Bill without a debate.

CPM leader Brinda Karat said deferring the voting showed the government did not have a clear strategy. In their meeting with the prime minister, the pro-Bill parties favoured passage of the Bill even if it meant using force, in other words, manually ejecting the protesting MPs from the House.

“The government has messed up the whole issue”’, said a BJP leader.
In what seemed to be poor floor management by the Congress-led UPA, a proper strategy to have the Bill passed was found wanting from the treasury benches as the two Houses only saw pandemonium and repeated adjournments: the Upper House was adjourned six times and the Lower House five.

On a day of dramatic developments, the much-hyped Bill, through which the UPA has sought to create history, was not discussed or passed on International Women’s Day. While it will be mentioned in the list of business of the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, it is uncertain whether it will be taken up for discussion at all.

But the anti-Bill parties have made it clear they will not allow the proposed legislation’s passage unless a quota for the other backward classes, within the 33 per cent reservation clause which it seeks to provide, is incorporated. A senior Congress leader who was part of the strategy-making group said, “it is difficult to say what will happen on Tuesday”, while another remarked that “it is a political call. Anything can happen”.

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