M A I N   N E W S

Women’s Quota
PM hints at safe passage for Bill
Parties queue up in support; JDU split on issue
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Comfy numbers

The PM’s confidence springs from the comfortable numbers that supporters of the Bill enjoy in the RS - Congress (71), BJP (45) and Left (20). They have 136 MPs and need 15 more to cross the 155-mark to attain a two-third majority in a House with an effective strength of 233 (total strength of 245).

If the Bill goes through, India would stand to improve political representation of women - currently a meager 8.3 per cent against the Asian average of 16.5 and the world average of 17.1 per cent.

New Delhi, March 6
After subsisting in margins of the political landscape for 14 years, the historic Women’s Reservation Bill is all set for a safe passage through the Rajya Sabha with the government today reaffirming support to the same and other parties, including the NCP, SAD, BJD and NC, backing it.

Even traditional adversaries like the JDU appear to be falling in line with party ranks divided on the issue. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar violated party chief Sharad Yadav’s position on the Bill today, saying women’s reservation in politics was an idea whose time has come. Having himself dissented on the issue in 1997, Nitish today appealed to the JDU chief to reconsider his position.

Yadav was in no mood to oblige and dismissed Kumar’s comments as “personal”. He also dared the Congress and BJP to pass the Bill without issuing a whip. “Whip indicates a division within the Congress and BJP,” Yadav said.

His opposition apart, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today hinted at the Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill’s passage in Rajya Sabha this Monday, telling the Women’s Leadership Summit in the capital that the UPA was moving towards providing one-third reservation to women in Parliament and state legislatures.

More numbers today flowed as Naresh Gujral of the SAD with three RS members - NCP’s Tariq Anwar with six MPs, NC patron Farooq Abdullah with two MPs and BJD Arjan Sethi with four MPs - said they’d vote for the Bill.

AIADMK with 7 MPs, DMK’s four, BSP, TMC, TDP and JDS with 2 MPs each are most likely to back the Bill, first introduced in Lok Sabha on September 12, 1996 when HD Deve Gowda was the Prime Minister of the United Front government.

For its part, the BJP core group met today, with party president Nitin Gadkari saying a unanimous decision had been taken to ensure passage of the Bill.

Visible opposition will now come only from old critics, including RJD’s Lalu Yadav, who wants a sub-quota for minority women; Mulayam Singh Yadav of the SP and Sharad Yadav camp of the JDU that has seven MPs in the RS and the Shiv Sena.

Though parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Bansal today said the government wouldn’t face problems in passing the Bill in both Houses, doubts remain on the preventive strategy socialist parties would adopt in on Monday.

RJD sources today told The Tribune that numbers were never an issue insofar as passage of this Bill was concerned. “It is not about numbers. Majority MPs in the Congress, BJP and Left don’t want this Bill. They have always counted on us to stall it,” said a senior RJD leader.



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