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Congress may introduce Women's bill to break Parliamentary deadlock

By Renu Mittal
December 03, 2010 00:50 IST
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In a bid to divide the Opposition as well as push through its agenda in a deadlocked parliament, the government may consider introducing the Women's Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha before the winter session ends on December 13.

Within the National Democratic Alliance, there are sharp fissures over the Women's Reservation Bill granting 33 per cent for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, even as a number of other parties, prominently those headed by the Yadav trio have been violently opposed to the bill.

It may be recalled that the bill has already been passed in the Rajya Sabha but after that the government developed cold feet and could not bring itself to introduce the bill in the Lok Sabha.

For the moment, the entire opposition including the Left parties have been one with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA in demanding the setting up of a Joint Parliamentary Committee over the 2G spectrum issue and this demand has led to Parliament being stalled for the last 15 days.

The government, in the din and the noise, has passed its financial business including the supplementary demand for grants of the finance ministry and railways. Along with this, it has also introduced the Judges Accountability Bill, a controversial bill which is significant for its timing since the Supreme Court has been taking on the government on every front recently.

But interestingly the bill is being moved after a full bench of the Supreme Court said there was need for such a bill in May 2007. The bill will be referred to the Standing Committee but overall it is unlikely to endear the government to the courts as it has many provisions which fix accountability on the judges for their acts of omission and commission.

The government, which appears to be taken aback by the unity displayed amongst the opposition ranks particularly between the Right and the Left, has tried another ploy to divide the opposition parties.

The union minister for parliamentary affairs said that if a JPC is constituted, only 7 out of the existing 37 political parties would be able to find space in the JPC, according to the rules which govern the constitution of the body. And even in this since there is a system of proportional representation, the congress as the biggest party with its 205 MPs would get the largest chunk of MPs along with the chairman while even a party like the CPI may not find place because of its small number of members in Parliament.

This is an argument put forward by the Centre but so far it has cut no ice with the opposition since the BJP leader L K Advani held a press conference to reiterate the demand for a JPC saying that the government was not interested in tackling corruption. 

The press conference, apart from being attended by senior BJP leaders was also attended by NDA parties like the Janata Dal-United and the Akali dal.

While the Left parties have been supporting the Women's Reservation Bill, the BJP has been playing hot and cold. It had initially supported it, then it wanted changes made to it and then it said there should be further discussion on the bill.

The JD-U led by Sharad Yadav had been opposing the bill while parties like the Rashtriya Janata Dalnd and Samajwadi Party have bitterly opposed the bill demanding further reservations for castes in the bill.

A senior leader said that since the Lok Sabha is being stalled every day, it is a good opportunity to introduce the bill as this highly emotive bill has the potential to create differences in the opposition ranks as well as move forward in fulfilling the Congress-led government's agenda for passing the bill and making it into law. If that happens it could change the very dynamics of politics in the years ahead.

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Renu Mittal in New Delhi
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