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Yadav chieftains stifle women’s aspirations

New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) Two Yadav chieftains, with a combined strength of 15 in the Rajya Sabha, succeeded Monday to prevent voting on a historic legislation that seeks to reserve one-third seats in parliament and state assemblies for women.

Samajwadi Party leader (SP) Mulayam Singh Yadav and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad, both backward caste leaders, raised much noise both inside and outside parliament against the women’s reservation bill and forced a rethink in the Congress-led government in going ahead with voting on the legislation that has been in the works for the past 13 years.

The voting was scheduled Monday in Rajya Sabha which has an effective strength of 233 members. It is now expected Tuesday.

The two Yadavs, who also had backing of a section of Janata Dal (United) led by Sharad Yadav in the Lok Sabha, the lower house, made it clear that they were willing to be thrown out of the house in their protest against the bill.

‘We will use our democratic rights fully whatever the consequences. They (the government) can get us thrown out,’ Lalu Prasad said here.

His party and SP forced several adjournment of the two houses of parliament on the issue. The RJD leader said the bill was a ‘political dacoity’ and ‘won’t be tolerated.’

Mulayam Singh Yadav said he was not afraid of losing his membership in the ‘fight for social justice.’

Both the Yadavs have demanded reservation for women belonging to minorities, backward classes and Dalits within the 33 per cent reservation provided in the bill.

The two leaders said they were not against reservation for women but wanted its benefits should go to the poor women who work in the fields. They also challenged the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party to get the bill passed without issuing whips.

With a predominantly rural base and only a symbolic presence of women in their parties in the higher echelons, the SP and RJD have been in the vanguard of protest over the proposal for reservation for women since it was first brought to the Parliament in 1996.

The Yadav leaders said the bill was a ‘conspiracy’ to remove established political leadership of their parties.

SP and RJD support the Congress-led government from outside and the two leaders made it clear that they will withdraw their support if the government pushed through the bill.

For the Congress that had made a build up for the passage of bill on the centenary of International Women’s Day, it was a sort of climbdown.

‘The bill will be definitely be passed. The dream (of women reservation) will become a reality,’ Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.

Congress sources said the party was also evidently concerned about ruffling feathers of SP and RJD too hard. They said with Bahujan Samaj Party also conveying its opposition to the bill, the government was keen not to burn its bridges with parties that have in the past helped it cope it with crisis.

— Indo-Asian News Service

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