Consensus eluded the all-party meeting held in New Delhi on Monday to break the logjam over the Women's Reservation Bill, with the Yadav trio sticking to their demand for quota within quota and United Progressive Alliance ally Trinamool Congress supporting their stance.
After two hours of intense deliberations, it was decided that more discussions would be held on the issue, triggering doubts about whether the bill could be introduced in Lok Sabha in the second half of the budget session beginning on April 15. The bill, a constitutional amendment legislation requiring two-third majority support, has already been passed by the Rajya Sabha.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today held discussions with leaders of Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Janata Dal - United, the parties which have been staunchly opposing the bill that provides for 33 per cent reservation to women in Lok Sabha and assemblies.
Leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party, Communist Party of India - Marxist, Communist Party of India, Telegu Desam Party, which are supporting the proposed legislation, also attended the meeting along with UPA allies Trinamool Congress and Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam.
Mukherjee was joined by Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal, Home Minister P Chidambaram, Defence Minister A K Antony and Law Minister Veerappa Moily. A brief statement issued by the parliamentary affairs ministry said, "further discussions will continue".
Emerging from the meeting, RJD chief Lalu Prasad said any kind of reservation for women should include separate quotas for Muslims, backward classes and Dalits.
"There is no question of going back on our position," he told reporters.
At the meeting, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee echoed the argument of RJD, SP and JD-U, as she emphasised that Muslim interest should not be ignored.
The Bahujan Samaj Party also pressed for quota within quota, failing which it would oppose the bill. The views expressed at Monday's meeting would be conveyed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after which a decision would be taken on timing for further consultations.
With regard to demands for quota within quota, Communist Party of India - Marxist leader Basudeb Acharia said the government should come forward with a proposal on how this could be done 'as under the Constitutional set up there is no provision of reservation in election either for OBC or Muslim minorities.'
To a question, he replied that his party was not opposed to it and 'If a proposal comes then it can be considered.'
At the same time, he said his party favoured passing of the bill in its present form as it has already been cleared in Rajya Sabha. Asked whether the bill would be delayed because of continued opposition to it, Acharia said his party was ready for deferment if it leads to consensus.
However, "If deferment leads to abandoning the bill, we are against it," said Acharia, whose party is in favour of the proposed legislation.
Gurudas Dasgupta of CPI said his party 'does not mind if the government takes time to arrive at a consensus but it will not support any kind of deferment if the intention is to dump the bill.' On the issue of quota within quota, he said, "We have not raised it."
Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, while pitching for consensus on the issue, said BJP was 'totally against quota within quota.'
She, however, said her party would give support to any proposal for reservation as per the formula prescribed by M S Gill as Chief Election Commissioner which would make it binding on political parties to give quota to women in ticket distribution.
Dasgupta said it was good that government has called for a consensus as it is a sensitive and controversial issue, adding that his party believed in giving equal opportunity to women as it is a male dominated society. BSP leader Dara Singh Chauhan said, "We reiterated our demand to give quota within quota to women of SC, ST communities and Muslims."
Otherwise, we will not be in a position to support the bill."To put forth the party's demand, BSP will hold a state-wide dharna on Ambedkar Jayanti, April 14," he said.
He said that the BSP was not opposed to reservation to women but believed in the principle of 'jiski jitni hissedari uski utni bhagidari (reservation should be in proportion to population).'
The only point of agreement at the meeting was that no force should be used during passage of the important legislation in the Lok Sabha as was done in the Rajya Sabha where seven opposing members were forcibly evicted by marshals.
The bill could not be introduced in the Lok Sabha because of stiff opposition by SP, RJD and JD-U. The government subsequently said it would not 'bulldoze' the legislation and nominated Mukherjee to hold consultations with all concerned to evolve a consensus.