The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Women’s bill swipe at Cong
Mulayam Singh Yadav

New Delhi, Aug. 19: The barb that Sonia Gandhi hurled at the Centre yesterday bounced back today to puncture the Opposition’s patchy armour of unity.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who has often put a spoke in the Opposition’s unity wheel, blamed the Congress for the indecision on the women’s reservation bill.

“We have never been against the women’s reservation bill, but have demanded some amendments. It is the Congress which is responsible for not agreeing to our suggestion,” he said. Always rattled by the bill, Mulayam Singh was goaded into the act by parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s lack-of-consensus rejoinder to Sonia’s charge yesterday.

Sonia had pinned her down by saying: “As far as women are concerned, it is clear this government has no intention whatsoever of passing the women’s reservation bill. A government which wilfully destroys national consensus in every other area suddenly discovers the virtues of a consensus on this issue. All of us women know it — Sushmaji don’t you agree'”

A visibly embarrassed Somnath Chatterjee of the CPM, seated next to Mulayam, tried in vain to restrain him. But for around 15 minutes, the no-trust debate turned into one on why the bill had failed to inspire faith among political parties.

The treasury benches gloated at the open divide in the Opposition ranks on the controversial bill, which, in the past, has triggered fisticuffs between pro- and anti-reservation lobbies in the House.

The discord also revealed the divisions within the NDA when Prabhunath Singh of the Samata Party said “the bill should never be brought till there is a consensus in Parliament”. Echoing the sentiment, Janata Dal (U)’s Devendra Prasad Yadav said: “I would like to know how many of your (Congress) members will vote for the bill if you do not issue a whip.”

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