With the numbers on its side, the ruling Congress was upbeat that the long-pending Women’s Reservation Bill that will be presented in the Rajya Sabha on International Women’s Day Monday for discussion and passage will sail through without a hitch.
Law Minister Veerappa Moily will present the bill, to amend the constitution to reserve 33 percent of seats in parliament and the state legislatures, Monday in the Rajya Sabha, where the Congress enjoys the clear support of 167 MPs in the 245-member house thanks to major opposition parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left supporting the measure.
The Congress and the BJP issued whips asking their MPs to be present in the Rajya Sabha Monday. The Left is also expected to do so as a constitution amendment bill has to be passed by a 50 percent majority of both houses of parliament.
The Congress, the BJP and the Left have 71, 45 and 22 seats respectively in the Rajya Sabha. Others who will support are AIADMK (7 MPs), Nationalist Congress Party (6), Biju Janata Dal (3), Trinamool Congress (2), Asom Gana Parishad (2), Telugu Desam Party (2) and independents and others (7), taking the total to 167. The bill needs the support of 163 MPs to clear the upper house.
Against this, the bill’s prominent opponents like the Samajwadi Party, the Janata Dal-United, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Shiv Sena can muster only 27 MPs.
Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, which was considered one of the fence sitters, Friday said the party would support the bill.
“We support the women’s reservation bill,” Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay told IANS.
The DMK, a prominent UPA ally, however, has not revealed its stand. Another fence sitter is the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati.
The BSP has 12 MPs in the Rajya Sabha and the DMK has 4.
The equation in the Lok Sabha is a lot more comforable, as the Congress, BJP and Left between them have 348 MPs in the 545-member house.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a reference to th bill during his speech in the Lok Sabha Friday on the motion of thanks for the president’s address
“We introduced the Women’s Reservation Bill in Rajya Sabha in May 2008. We have already considered the report of the standing committe of parliament on this bill. It will be our endeavour to bring the bill before parliament in this very session. I sincerely hope that hon’ble members will support the bill, as it would be the strongest affirmation of our commitment to the empowerment of women,” the prime minister said.
Meanwhile, “fully” supporting the bill, the BJP Friday issued a whip to its party members to be present in the Rajya Sabha Monday.
“A whip has been issued to party MPs to be present in the house on Monday,” Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said.
Asked about the party’s stance on the bill, he said the BJP supported it fully.
“It (the bill) is a long standing commitment. We support it fully,” he said.
On Thursday, Congress president Sonia Gandhi told party MPs that she accorded the “highest importance” to the women’s reservation bill and it would be a “gift to the women of India if it is introduced and passed” in parliament on March 8, International Women’s Day.
On his part, RJD leader Lalu Prasad Friday urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to convene an all-party meeting “to evolve a consensus” on the bill before introducing it in parliament.
On Thursday, Lalu Prasad said in Lok Sabha that his party would oppose the introduction of the bill in its present form.
“In the name of reservation, prominent (political) leaders’ (parliamentary) chances will be spoiled,” Lalu said.