The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No chokha for Laloo till he signs women Bill

New Delhi, March 4: The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. But for making him fall in line' The same route, it seems.

In her attempt to get the jinxed women’s reservation Bill passed in Parliament, Sushma Swaraj has managed to get Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi to issue a threat to her husband: support the Bill or forget his “dana-pani” (food and water).

Which means no “alu chokha” — a Bihari delicacy Laloo Prasad Yadav is extremely fond of.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal chief is among the most vocal critics of the Bill, which calls for 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state legislatures, along with Mulayam Singh Yadav and Sharad Yadav who are demanding a quota for backward caste women.

Swaraj, the first woman parliamentary affairs minister, hit upon the gender diplomacy, confident that women leaders of various parties would influence the male members. She said she is working on the two Jayas — ADMK chief Jayalalithaa and Samata Party leader Jaya Jaitly — to get the support of their party MPs.

As for the Bahujan Samaj Party, Swaraj said she would directly talk with Mayavati. Last month, she had called on Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

“Rabri Devi told me she will stop her husband’s ‘dana-pani’ if the Bill is not passed,” Swaraj said, adding that she told the chief minister that once the Bill was passed she could treat her husband to alu chokha.

The issue today figured in the Rajya Sabha, which witnessed a light-hearted exchange between the Prime Minister and Laloo Prasad, who claimed that Atal Bihari Vajpayee was “anti-woman and, therefore, he did not marry”. “Pradhan mantri to sab se bada mahila virodhi hai, aap shadi nahi kiye,” he said.

Vajpayee retorted, saying the RJD chief must be a supporter of women as he had given the post of Bihar’s chief minister to his wife. The Bihar strongman, not one to be outsmarted in a duel of wit, said while Mughal emperor Shahjahan had built the Taj Mahal after the death of his queen, he had given the post while his wife was still alive.

The Prime Minister was replying to the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address in the upper House. He assured the members that his government was keen to create a consensus to get the Bill passed during the current session.

“We proposed to bring the Bill in this very session and get it passed provided there is a consensus among political parties,” he said. A majority of political parties, he added, were committed to the Bill.

Swaraj also persuaded the Prime Minister to convene an all-party meeting on March 7 to evolve a consensus on the issue. If a consensus eludes the meeting, the Election Commission’s proposal of party-wise reservation (33 per cent seats for women candidates) may be discussed.

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