Consensus again eludes women’s reservation bill (Roundup)

June 22nd, 2011 - 8:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Meira Kumar New Delhi, June 22 (IANS) The women’s reservation bill that seeks to reserve 33 percent seats for women in parliament and state legislatures hit another roadblock with an all-party meeting convened by Speaker Meira Kumar Wednesday failing to break the deadlock over its provisions.

One of the bill’s major opponent, the Samajwadi Party (SP), stayed away as did the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) while its other opponents stuck to their stand.

However, the speaker, talking to reporters later, said, “We will keep the effort going on”.

“I will call the SP and the BSP separately to discuss the issue… Efforts will continue till consensus is achieved,” she said, adding that another meeting would be convened before the monsoon session of parliament that begins Aug 1.

The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha March 9 last year. The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) are the other main opponents of the bill. They are demanding a quota within a quota for women from the other backward classes (OBCs) to be included in the bill.

“Our stand has been the same since day one, we want reservation for OBC women, and we will stand by it,” a RJD leader told IANS.

Senior RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad, who represented the party at the meeting, demanded a “quota within quota” for OBC women.

Shiv Sena MP Ananth Geete, meanwhile, suggested that instead of reserving 33 percent of seats for women, political parties should be given the right to give similar percentage of tickets to women.

Extending the BJP’s support to the bill, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj urged Meira Kumar to evolve a consensus on the bill.

“Members who disagree should be given a chance to put across their views and be allowed to press for amendments and even walkout. In the Rajya Sabha marshals had to be used. But no similar scenes should be repeated in the Lok Sabha,” Sushma Swaraj said.

The reference was to the BSP walkout from the upper house before voting on the bill last March. Marshals had to be called in to evict some protesting members from the RJD, SP and JD-U, who were creating unruly scenes in the house. UPA ally Trinamool Congress had abstained from voting.

While Sushma Swaraj and senior leader L.K. Advani represented the BJP at the meeting, the CPI-M was represented by Basudeb Acharya.

The bill, to be brought through a constitutional amendment, has the support of the ruling Congress and its allies in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), besides the main opposition BJP and the Left parties. It will need a two-thirds majority to be passed in the lower house.

The bill has to be passed by the Lok Sabha and ratified by 50 per cent of the states before it comes into effect.

The UPA, along with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the Left parties can muster the required votes but given the shifting political sands, the Congress, observers say, does not wish to rub the opponents of the bill the wrong way as it sees in them potential allies.

Wednesday’s meeting called by the speaker was in response to the suggestion by leaders of several political parties and also Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee that she take the initiative for arriving at a consensus by calling a meeting.

The bill has been pending for last 16 years with political parties failing to agree on its provisions.

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