No consensus on women’s bill, discussions to continue


New Delhi: The government Monday said it would continue discussions on the women’s reservation bill to arrive at a consensus after its all-party meeting on the issue saw many of the bill’s opponents sticking to their demand for a quota within quota.

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“Further discussion will continue,” the government said in a statement after the nearly two-and-half hours’ meeting on the bill that provides for 33 percent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

The meeting on the Constitution (108th Amendment Bill) 2008 was chaired by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is also leader of the Lok Sabha.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily and Defence Minister A.K. Antony also attended the meeting.

The Samajwadi Party (SP), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and a section of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) are opposed to the bill which was passed amid uproar in the Rajya Sabha March 9.

Sources said that leaders of political parties who attended the meeting told the government the bill should not be passed in the Lok Sabha by using marshals — a reference to its passage in the Rajya Sabha when marshals escorted out those members opposing the bill and squatting in the house.

Some allies of the Congress, including the DMK and Nationalist Congress Party, also emphasised that the legislation should be passed in a cordial atmosphere in the lower house of parliament.

Some parties took exception to Moily’s remarks during interviews that the government was committed to the bill in its present form. They said that such views contradicted the purpose of the consultation process.

According to sources, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be apprised of the outcome of the discussions after which the government will again speak with the opposition parties.

RJD leader Lalu Prasad, a strong opponent of the bill in its present form, said the legislation should provide reservation for Dalits, minorities and the backward castes.

Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said her party supported the bill but the interest of the minorities should be taken care of.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj said the party was not in favour of quota-within-quota. She said the party will oppose the use of marshals during discussion or voting on the bill in the house.

Swaraj said if the government comes up with any proposal, the party would be willing to consider it.

Communist Party of India leader Gurudas Dasgupta said his party did not want the government to defer the bill without valid reason.

Shiv Sena leader Anant G. Geete said his party was not against reservation for women but political parties should have the right to decide seats.

The government, which faces a bigger opposition to the bill in the Lok Sabha, wants to introduce it in the lower house in the second phase of the budget session that starts April 15.