Finance Bill gets govt priority in LS

Womens Bill to be taken up later; Sonia pacifies Mamata

Finance Bill gets govt priority in LS

Top billing: Congress members congratulate party president Sonia Gandhi on the passage  of the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha, at her residence in New Delhi on  Wednesday.  PTI

Securing the requisite support for the Constitution amendment bill that seeks to reserve 33 per cent of the slots for women in Parliament and State Assemblies is not a problem of numbers for the Congress and its UPA allies.

The government can count on the support of the BJP, most of its NDA partners as well as the Left parties which backed the Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

But in the Lok Sabha where it is important for the Congress and UPA to demonstrate their majority at all times, the leading coalition party cannot just depend on the Opposition support to get the Bill passed. If that happens in the voting on the Bill whenever it takes place, it could be a huge political embarrassment, if not dangerous political gambit.

On Wednesday, Congress floor managers in Parliament dropped enough hints that they would avoid risks. So, they indicated that the first priority for the government would be insulate the Finance Bill from the cracks that have appeared within the ruling coalition and its supporting parties over the Reservation Bill.

The BJP made it clear during the day that it was under no obligation to help the government to pass the Finance Bill. In fact, it said it would move cut motions to the Finance Bill which must be defeated if the Finance Bill and, indeed, the government were to survive.

The Finance Bill is, therefore, likely to get priority over the quota bill in the list of government business in the Lok Sabha. Indications were that the Congress managers were contemplating bringing the Women’s Bill in the House only towards the end of the current budget session, after passing the Finance Bill.

According to Parliamentary Affairs minister Pawan Bansal, while the vote on account on the budget proposals will be taken up in the Lok Sabha this Friday, the voting on the Finance Bill has been tentatively scheduled for April 22.

This appeared to be inevitable as even parties supporting the Bill like the BJP, not to speak of its opponents like the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), made it clear that they would not accept the use of marshals to evict from the House the members who might seek to stall the proceedings for the consideration and passage of the Bill.

In the Upper House, the protesting MPs were physically removed by the marshals ahead of the Tuesday’s historic vote. Even Trinamool Congress, a part of the ruling coalition, opposed the use of the marshals.

The party leadership made the first move during the day to pacify the Trinamool Congress which had abstained from the vote in the Upper House on Tuesday.
Party chief Sonia Gandhi met with Trinamool leader and railway minister Mamata Banerjee after which the latter appeared to have softened a bit.

Banerjee told newspersons following the meeting that her party was for the Bill but only felt that there ought to be sub-quota for the Muslims. She attributed her party’s abstention to a “communication gap.”

There was some more relief to the Congress managers. The Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal, which had threatened to formally withdraw their outside support to the United Progressive Alliance during the day, did not carry that out.

There were also speculations during the day that they might move a no-confidence vote in the Lok Sabha against the United Progressive Alliance government.

But the two parties made it clear by the end of the day that they were not thinking on those lines.

But the Congress managers would have to engage the two parties as their support in the Lower House would be important for the stability of the government.

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