The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Centre gears up for women’s quota Bill D-Day in House

New Delhi, May 5: The government today promised to push through the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha tomorrow though opponents to the proposal for a 33 per cent women’s quota in Parliament and the Assemblies remained firm on stalling it.

The Centre has scheduled the consideration and passage of the Constitution amendment Bill along with two others — one on delimitation of constituencies based on the 2001 census and the other on service tax — on its Tuesday agenda for the House.

Late this evening, a meeting of the business advisory committee chaired by Speaker Manohar Joshi gave the nod for taking up the Bill tomorrow after the passage of the other two.

Following the meeting, parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said the government was optimistic and serious about ensuring passage of the controversial Bill in its present form. Four hours have been allotted for the Bill that has been held up for years.

The BJP and the Opposition Congress have issued three-line whips to members to be present in the House and support the Bill. The passage of a Constitution amendment Bill requires at least 50 per cent of the members of a House to be present and not less than two-thirds of them supporting it.

The Left parties, the Telugu Desam Party, the ADMK and the BSP, too, have committed support for the Bill in its present form.

However, the Bill is likely to encounter opposition again from many smaller parties, including several NDA partners. The Shiv Sena, the Janata Dal (United) and the Samata Party today gave advance notice of their continued reservations against the Bill.

The Sena leader in the House, Chandrakant Khaire, who attended the business advisory committee meeting, said the BJP had not taken his party into confidence about Tuesday’s move. “We will oppose the Bill,” he stated.

The Dal(U), on the other hand, has teamed up with parties like the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Samajwadi Party to demand a sub-quota for Other Backward Classes women.

RJD leader Laloo Prasad Yadav met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to again convey his party’s reservations against the Bill.

The other Yadav, Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh, also remains staunchly opposed to the Bill. His party again requested the government not to press with the Bill in its present form. It has sought either a diluted quota for women or restructuring of the Bill on the Election Commission’s proposal. Nirvachan Sadan has mooted that each party should give a fixed number of tickets to women.

The Yadav duo has also been seeking a sub-quota for OBC and Muslim women within the 33 per cent reservation.

It is not clear what tactic the opponents of the Bill would adopt tomorrow, but they have often used lungpower to derail passage of the Bill. A couple months ago, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, at an all-party meeting on the issue, had warned that the government would no longer wait for consensus, but decide the fate of the Bill by putting it to vote. Sushma said the government will go for House division on the Bill on Tuesday.

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