M A I N   N E W S

Trinamool MPs stay away from voting
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 9
Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, who till yesterday could be seen singing “We shall overcome”, the English version of “hum honge kamyab”, in the Lok Sabha with regard to the Women’s Reservation Bill, changed tack less than 24 hours later and instructed her party MPs in the Rajya Sabha to stay away from the House when voting on the legislation took place.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has expressed surprise over Mamata’s decision. Accusing the government of trying to bulldoze the Bill in the Upper House, Mamata said the party could not participate in the voting as they hadn’t been intimated about it.

Clearly, Mamata is upset over the fact that the government did not take her into confidence before putting the measure on vote in the Rajya Sabha. She is also angry with Congress managers for heeding to “machinations of the Left, particularly the CPM, and the BJP” on the Bill.

“We are not against the government. But we are hurt that neither Mulayam Singh nor Lalu Prasad Yadav nor the TMC were consulted over the Bill. Instead, we see Prakash and Brinda Karat of the CPM almost leading this initiative. The UPA has to trust its allies first,” she said.

She now says she is opposed to passing the Women’s Bill by force and wants inclusion of minority quota in the new law. But her party’s support for the government will continue.

The TMC has two MPs in the Rajya Sabha - Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Roy and Swapan Sadhan Bose. The party, which has 19 MPs in LS, is the second largest constituent in the Congress-led UPA. Sources said Mamata had urged Pranab Mukherjee on Monday to convene an all-party meeting to evolve a consensus on the issue.




After Didi’s outburst, govt focuses on survival
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, March 9
Faced with the fury of key ally Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. The UPA government’s celebrations over the passage of the controversial Women’s Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha today may prove to be shortlived and could even force the ruling combine to defer its introduction in Lok Sabha.

Although the government had factored in the strong opposition of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and SP leader Mulayum Singh Yadav when it decided to push ahead with the Bill in the Rajya Sabha. However, Mamata’s outburst has clearly spoilt the party. But before it moves in to deal with its former allies, who were lending outside support to the government, UPA managers will first have to mollify the TMC supremo whose 20 MPs in the Lok Sabha are critical for the survival of the ruling combine. While the TMC is not planning to withdraw support to the government, UPA sources admitted that it will be difficult for them to bring the Bill in the Lok Sabha in the present situation.

“How can you bring the Bill in the Lok Sabha when an important partner is not on board,” remarked a senior UPA minister, adding that it was quite embarrassing when the two Trinamool Congress MPs did not participate in the vote on the Bill today.

UPA sources revealed that after the RJD and the SP, who account for 44 MPs in the Lok Sabha, decided to withdraw support to the government, there was some rethink going on ahead with the Bill as there was a question mark over the passage of the crucial Finance and Appropriation Bills. However, the UPA managers were emboldened to push through the Bill after it got an assurance from the BJP and the Left that they will extend full support in the smooth conduct of all financial business.

UPA leaders may have managed to ward off any immediate threat to the government but its floor leaders will be forced to do some deft handling in Parliament each time a critical legislation is to be put to vote. Putting up a brave face, UPA leaders maintain that even after the exit of the SP and the RJD, it is comfortably placed with 276 MPs, four more than the halfway figure of 272. However, they privately admit that the RJD and SP support had given them a comfortable lead of over 300. In the changed situation, UPA managers have already started wooing independent MPs like Jaya Prada and Bhajan Lal and are even eyeing political rivals like the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the TDP along with smaller parties like the Assam United Democratic Front and the Nagaland People’s Front.

Parties’ stand on the Bill

The Supporters
Congress, BJP, CPM, Nitish Kumar-faction of Janata Dal (United), Sharad Pawar-led NCP, Bal Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, Parkash Singh Badal-led SAD, Naveen Patnaik-led BJD, M Karunanidhi-led DMK, Jayalalitha-led AIADMK, CPI, Asom Gana Parishad, Muslim League, RSP, besides a couple of Independents.

The Opponents
Mulayam Singh’s SP , Lalu Yadav’s RJD and Maywati’s BSP.

The Absentees
Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress.



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