Congress to try for consensus on women’s bill


New Delhi : The Samajwadi Party (SP) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) said Sunday they will convey their strong opposition to the women’s reservation bill at Monday’s all-party meeting called by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee even as the ruling Congress maintained it will try its best to forge a consensus on the legislation.

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“We are opposed to the bill in its present form. We have given some suggestions to the government to modify the bill and one of them should be accepted,” SP spokesman Mohan Singh told IANS.

He said the government should reduce the women’s quota to 20 percent from 33 percent and allow political parties to give reservation to women in the distribution of party tickets. Another possibility was to keep reservation for minorities, backward classes and Dalits in the 33 percent quota for women.

The SP spokesperson said the party did not have much hope from Monday’s meeting as Congress president Sonia Gandhi was against any changes in the present bill to reserve 33 percent seats in the parliament and legislatures for women. The bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha March 9.

“The meeting may only be a formality. I don’t think it will yield a result,” he said.

“When Sonia Gandhi wants the bill to be passed in the form it was in the Rajya Sabha, I don’t think Pranab Mukherjee or Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will accept anything else,” he said.

“The Representation of People’s Act should be amended to make it mandatory for political parties to give 20 percent seats to women in distribution of tickets,” he said.

RJD Rajya Sabha MP Rajniti Prasad reiterated the party’s opposition to the bill. He said when the constitution was sought to be amended to provide reservation to women, the interests of minorities, backward classes and Dalits should be taken care of.

“The bill has been brought to finish parties which gained prominence after the Mandal Commission (recommendations were implemented),” he said.

Though Janata Dal-United (JD-U) president Sharad Yadav has also opposed the bill, the party is divided on the issue. The party’s senior leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has come out in support of the bill. Yadav is expected to represent the JD-U at Monday’s meeting.

The Congress said the party will try to evolve a consensus on the issue.

“We will try our best to create a consensus. We will try to persuade (parties opposing the bill) to realise that it was for the betterment of society and of women who comprise more than half of the country’s population,” Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said.

Both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left, which support the bill, have said they were willing to consider any other proposal if it is brought by the government.

The meeting on Monday comes against the backdrop of the government’s assurance to hold consultations with political parties before the bill is tabled in the Lok Sabha.

The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha last month amidst strong protests from the SP, RJD, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), a section of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Bahujan Samaj Party.