New Delhi, April 5
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had called a meeting of party leaders to consult them on the Bill that was passed in the Rajya Sabha in the first half of the Budget session of Parliament amid high drama, culminating in the forcible eviction of seven Opposition members.
The two-hour meeting today ran true to form with political parties restating their known positions. Unable to forge a consensus, the government put out a cryptic statement later saying further discussions on the matter will continue.
The ruling combine had hoped to seek the passage of the Bill in the Lok Sabha when the Budget session commences on April 15 after a recess. The government was prepared for the oft-repeated demand for a “quota within quota” from Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayum Singh Yadav and Sharad Yadav. However, the UPA’s resolve to go ahead with the Bill has been weakened after the Trinamool Congress opposed it. With 19 Lok Sabha MPs, the Trinamool Congress is a critical UPA partner whose views cannot be overlooked.
The Trinamool chief has, in fact, emerged as a de facto leader of the three Yadav leaders, who were closeted with Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee in her Parliament House after the meeting.
Besides having to contend with Banerjee, the government is constrained from pushing through the Bill in the Lok Sabha as it has to complete pending financial business. Stepping up its efforts to mollify RJD and SP leaders who lend outside support to the ruling combine, Pranab Mukherjee is learnt to have promised a discussion on the Ranganath Mishra report that has recommended special quotas for the Dalit and backward Muslims. The government is hoping that by doing so, it would be able to wean away its “secular allies” from the Opposition ranks and guard against derailment of crucial finance bills.
There is a growing view in the government that it can afford to go slow on the Women’s Bill as it has already demonstrated its commitment to it by getting it passed in the Rajya Sabha. Parties like the CPM and the BJP, which are supporting the Bill, also appear to be veering around to this view. In a shift, CPM leader Basudev Acharia said the government should come forward with a proposal on the introduction of “quota within a quota” as “under the Constitutional set up there is no provision of reservation in election either for the OBC or Muslim minorities.” Stating that his party is not opposed to it, he said it would consider any such proposal.
BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said her party would support the proposal that political parties be asked to give quotas to women in ticket distribution.
BJP suggests EC formula
New Delhi, April 5
While formally the party maintained that it remains committed to providing the existing Bill granting 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and state legislatures, already passed by the Rajya Sabha earlier last month, sources said “The party is not opposed to the EC formula. But it is for the government to take the initiative.”
Former Chief Election Commissioner MS Gill had put forward a proposal to make it mandatory for political parties to set aside 33 per cent tickets at the time of elections to women candidates and give teeth to the EC to penalise the party that failed to meet the requirement.
Sushma reportedly suggested this
The BJP also reiterated its opposition to “quota within quota” for the Muslims, OBCs and the Dalits - main demand of SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and JD-U’s Sharad Yadav as also Mayawati’s BSP and now the Trinamool Congress led by Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee. BJP sources said: “We remain committed to the Bill in its present form.” But party sources also stated that it was opposed to forcibly push it through the Marshals as was done in the Rajya Sabha.