JD(U) hints at softening of opposition to women’s bill

New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) With the numbers favouring the passage of the women’s reservation bill in the Rajya Sabha Monday, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), a prominent party opposing it, Sunday indicated a softening of its position.

JD-U chief whip in the Rajya Sabha Ali Anwar Ansari said the party will consider the opinion of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in support of the bill, which seeks to reserve 33 percent seats for women in parliament and state legislatures.

‘A meeting of JD-U MPs will be held at party president Sharad Yadav’s residence Monday morning. We will take a unanimous decision,’ Ansari told IANS.

The JD-U has not issued a whip to its MPs to either support or oppose the bill.

Ansari said the bill is expected to be passed by the upper house of parliament and ‘there is no point of opposing it for the sake of opposition’.

‘We are taking the opinion of all our members and a decision will be taken,’ he said.

Ansari, who spoke to both Yadav and Nitish Kumar Sunday, ruled out the possibility of the party abstaining from the vote on the bill.

Nitish Kumar, who will lead the JD-U charge in campaign for Bihar assembly elections later this year, Saturday spoke in favour of the bill.

With more and more parties coming out in favour of the legislation, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) remained its only two vocal opponents. Both parties are demanding quotas for backward classes and minorities within 33 per cent reservation for women. While the SP has 11 members in the Rajya Sabha, the RJD has four.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which has 12 members in the upper house, has not opened its cards yet with regards to the bill.

For the bill to be passed, it has to be supported by two-thirds of those present and voting. This figure should also be at least 50 percent of the total number of members in the house.

With an effective strength of 233, the Constitution (108th Amendment Bill), 2008, needs support of 155 members in the Rajya Sabha if all the members are present.

While the combined strength of the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left – three main supporters of the bill – comes to 138 in the upper house, many other parties, including the DMK, AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal, National Conference, Nationalist Congress Party and Shiromani Akali Dal have expressed their support for the path-breaking legislation.

With the ruling Congress having timed the consideration of the bill with the International Women’s Day and party president Sonia Gandhi making a strong pitch for its passage, the BJP too has joined the race to claim credit.

BJP president Nitin Gadkari, who appealed to all parties to support the bill, said the party was conscious that the ruling coalition was in minority in the Rajya Sabha. He said the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had first moved the bill in parliament.

The Constitution (108th Amendment Bill), 2008, provides for reservation of one-third seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies for 15 years from the date of commencement of the Act on rotation basis.

The proposal to provide such reservation to women has been pending for the last 13 years due to lack of political consensus.

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