New Delhi : A controversial measure seeking one-third quota for women in India’s legislatures continued to evoke mixed reactions from political parties after its tabling in Rajya Sabha Tuesday amid stiff opposition from the Samajwadi Party.
The Women’s Reservation Bill, seeking provision of 33 per cent quota for women in Parliament and state legislatures, was tabled by Law Minister H.R. Bharadwaj around 12.15 p.m. when the upper house met after a short adjournment.
There was high drama as Samajwadi Party members tried to snatch copies of the bill from the minister – and Congress MPs tried to protect him by forming a human chain.
The house had to be adjourned soon thereafter. The bill will be referred to a standing committee of parliament.
The Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties welcomed the bill. The Samajwadi Party vehemently opposed it, while the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), even though it had agreed to the tabling of the bill, was confident that it will never be passed.
“The form and the manner in which the government has tabled the bill has ensured that it is put in cold storage. It is not going to see the light of day,” said Devendra Prasad Yadav, RJD MP.
RJD leader Lalu Prasad had announced Monday that his party will not oppose the tabling of the bill.
The Congress Party, however, was confident that the bill will be passed during their remaining one-year in office.
“It (the tabling) is the first step towards a legislation on the issue. We will pursue every step with diligence. The government tabled the bill despite unprecedented and unparliamentary behaviour of the Samajwadi Party,” said Jayanthi Natarajan, Congress spokesperson.
Echoing these sentiments, Women and Child Development minister Renuka Chaudhary said: “We are committed to taking it to the final stages.” When asked what took the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government four years to bring the bill, she said: “In a democracy we need to discuss and we still have the monsoon and winter sessions of parliament (to debate the bill). What is the ‘jaldi-baazi’ (hurry).”
The women’s reservation bill was tabled for the first time in September 1996. Since then it has been introduced in the parliament several times but each effort was derailed.
BJP, the main opposition party, welcomed the bill. “I am happy that the bill has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha. It will not lapse now,” said Sushma Swaraj, senior BJP leader.
The Left parties congratulated the UPA government for tabling the bill and expressed the hope that the government would ensure its passage.
The Samajwadi Party made its opposition to the bill clear when its MPs tried to snatch copies of the bill and also tore some of them.
The Samajwadi Party and the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) are opposed to the bill and have demanded a ‘quota within quota’ for women belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBC).
Political sources said the Congress party wanted to table the bill in this session to prevent it from lapsing. The fact that BJP had reserved 33 percent of the party’s organisational posts for women also prompted the UPA to table the bill.