UPA govt sings 'consensus' tune

To consult all parties on Womens Bill

UPA govt sings 'consensus' tune

Pranab Mukherjee: This assurance would assuage the feelings of all members

Ice broken, the government made a formal commitment in the LS with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee declaring that before introducing the Bill, “the government will complete the process of consultations with all concerned”. Following his statement, the Lok Sabha, which was adjourned thrice after anti-Bill MPs created an uproar on Thursday, resumed smooth functioning after a gap of four days.

Meeting
The statement came after Mukherjee held a meeting with the three Yadavs –– Mulayam Singh (SP), Lalu Prasad (RJD)  and Sharad Yadav (JD-U) –– who have reservations over the Bill for not earmarking a quota for OBC and Muslim women. Later in the evening, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi hosted a dinner for coalition MPs and their spouses.

Although what transpired in the afternoon meeting – also attended by Mamata Banerjee (Trinamool Congress), Sharad Pawar (NCP) and T R Baalu (DMK) –– was not disclosed, it was learnt that the anti-Bill leaders proposed scaling down the quota from 33 to 20 per cent and that a quota-within-quota clause possibility be explored at the earliest. The government, however, made no commitment on this score.

A section of the Congress, especially some MPs belonging to the Rajya Sabha, which has already passed the Bill, are said to have demanded there be no dilution and that it be passed in its present form.

At the meeting, the three Yadavs leaders strongly criticised the use of marshals in the Rajya Sabha. Sharad Yadav, whose party leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has taken a pro-Bill stand, asked the government to adopt ways of discussion and eschew the path of confrontation with the Opposition.

They also opposed the presence of marshals in the House during the discussion over the Bill. Sharad Yadav and Lalu Prasad insisted before the media that there would be an all-party meeting, but the government only said “all sections would be consulted”. On his part, Mulayam said: “There is solution to all problems. This issue will also be resolved.”
Mukherjee told the House he thought “this assurance would assuage the feelings of all members and business would be conducted smoothly.”

If the government conceded to the demand of the Yadav troika, the BJP was not without disquiet. Realising a sense of unrest among backward class MPs, the party brass invited the members for tea at the residence of veteran leader L K Advani.

Following the meeting, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, one of the main forces behind the Bill, dismissed suggestions that some of her party MPs were against the Bill. Two members who had spoken against the Bill – chief whip Ramesh Bais and Hukumdeo Narayan Singh – denied they were unsupportive of the Bill, while another MP, Yogi Adityanath, continued to lambast it.

“It is needless. We are against any reservation. Everybody should come to (Parliament) on his/her ability,” Adityanath said, adding that the BJP leadership had fallen into a government trap.

Still, BJP sources say there are several MPs who are prepared to defy the whip at the time of voting.

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