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Parties reach 'near consensus' on Women's Bill

July 15, 2003 17:55 IST

In what appeared to be a movement forward on the controversial Women's Reservation Bill, a near consensus was arrived at on proposals for double-member constituencies at a meeting of four major political parties convened by Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi. The parties also agreed on increasing the number of seats.

"There has been near consensus on increasing the number of seats," BJP leader V K Malhotra told reporters after the 90-minute meeting. Meanwhile, the Speaker said that the proposal of double-member constituencies was among those on which there was agreement.

The Constitution Amendment Bill, which seeks to provide 33 per cent reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, was stalled for the fourth time amidst unruly scenes during the Budget session.

Samajwadi party leader Mulayam Singh favoured the Election Commission's proposal that political parties should be allowed to give certain percentage of nominations to women candidates and the parties that failed to do so should be deregistered.

"We are for granting reservation to women, but are opposed to 33 per cent reservation, as is being suggested," Yadav said after the meeting. Even 20 per cent reservation to women was acceptable, he added.

Congress leader Shivraj Patil said his party was opposed to the EC's proposal and was unwilling to make the reservation less than 33 per cent.

Being a Constitution Amendment bill, it requires 50 per cent of the House to be present and voting and two-third majority for its passage.

The speaker had convened the meeting to break the impasse over the bill ahead of the Monsoon session after an all-party meeting convened by him last month ended in a deadlock.

He said that a draft would be prepared on the agreed proposals and would be sent to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for consideration.

The Bharatiya Janata Party will discuss the issue at its Raipur conclave this week so that a bill can be brought forward in the monsoon session itself, Malhotra said.

Besides Malhotra, the leaders who attended the meeting included Shivraj Patil (Congress), Somnath Chatterjee (Communist Party of India-Marxist) and Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP), who is a strong opponent of the bill in its current form.

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