The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal man enough on women’s Bill

New Delhi, March 7: On the eve of women’s day, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee bluntly told an all-party meeting that if there was no consensus within 15 days, he would go ahead and get the women’s reservation Bill passed.

As the meeting failed to reach a consensus, Vajpayee did some tough talking. Annoyed by Laloo Prasad Yadav’s strong resistance to the Bill and his warning that parties opposing it should not be intimidated, Vajpayee said democracy functioned on the basis of majority.

“The minority has no right to tell the majority to give up its wish and should not create trouble in the endeavour,” he said.

The Bill provides for 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and Assemblies.

Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi’s threat to stop Yadav’s “dana-pani” seems not to have worked. Yadav was the only leader who stridently opposed the Bill in its present form.

Vajpayee said the majority of members favoured the Bill. Recounting the ruckus around the Bill the last time when regional party members had foiled its introduction in Parliament, Vajpayee said he would not want any “gadbad” (trouble) this time.

The opposing parties have been told to build a consensus during the Parliament recess between March 14 and April 7 so that the law could be passed in the budget session itself.

He bluntly told the Bill’s opponents that the government would table the legislation whether there was a consensus or not.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who has also opposed the Bill in its present form, suggested negotiations on the Election Commission’s proposal that political parties give 33 per cent of their tickets to women candidates in parliamentary and Assembly elections.

He sought time to talk to the Congress and Left parties to build a consensus. Mulayam Singh is working on a formula that parties accept the poll panel proposal with a lower quota of around 15 per cent.

Vajpayee accepted his plea for more time. But the Prime Minister said efforts were being made for the past six years to reach a consensus and 15 days would not make much of a difference.

The Congress, represented by Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh at the meeting, said it would react after studying Mulayam Singh’s formula.

BJP allies Samata Party, Janata Dal (United), Telugu Desam and the PMK stayed away from the meeting. But with the Congress, the BJP and the Left backing the Bill, a determined government can get it passed.

Asked if there was a danger of lobbies within the BJP and the Congress defying the high command’s dictate, Swaraj said: “How can any BJP MP dare to oppose after Vajpayee’s tough talk today'”

“Women’s reservation was the late Rajiv Gandhi’s dream, how can Congress MPs defy Sonia Gandhi’s directive'

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