Women’s quota bill: Despite opposition, government firm

New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) Even as Samajwadi Party (SP) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) Sunday launched fresh attacks on the women’s reservation bill in its present form, the government said there was no option but to push forward with the legislation in the absence of a consensus.

The government has timed the consideration and passage of the bill in Rajya Sabha with the 100th year of international women’s day Monday. The landmark legislation seeks to reserve 33 percent seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women.

Apart from strong opposition from SP and RJD, two other parties — Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) indicated Sunday that they were not in full agreement with the legislation.

JD-S chief H.D. Dewe Gowda said that his party was not against reservation for women but would push for a quota for backward classes. The JD-S has two members in the Rajya Sabha.

The BSP has called a meeting of its MPs Monday morning to decide the party’s strategy during debate on the bill.

BSP sources said the party is likely to demand a separate quota for Dalits within 33 percent quota for women. The party has 12 members in the Rajya Sabha.

Speaking in Patna, RJD chief Lalu Prasad said that the bill was ‘a big mistake’ and appealed to MPs from the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) not to vote for the legislation.

He said no country in the world had such provisions of reservation for women. The RJD, which has four members in the upper house of parliament, has already issued a whip to its members to vote against the bill.

Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav said in Lucknow that the bill was ‘anti-Muslim’ and ‘anti-Dalit’ and will restrict chances of members of these communities getting elected to legislatures. The SP has 11 members in Rajya Sabha.

Law Minister M. Veerapa Moily said that political parties could not evolve a system to provide adequate representation to women and there was no other option except to push the bill forward.

He expressed confidence about the bill being passed in Rajya Sabha Monday. With the assured support of the Congress, BJP and Left besides DMK, AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal, Trinamool Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, National Conference, Shiromani Akali Dal and some independents, the government is hopeful of getting the legislation through.

The Janata Dal-United, which had earlier opposed the bill, has softened its stand after endorsement of the legislation by party leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

Congress sources said there were worries that the bill’s opponents may trigger pandemonium in the house and prevent a vote. There is also a possibility of political parties opposed to the bill moving amendments.

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