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Smooth passage likely for 33% quota
Published on 6 Mar. 2010 1:00 AM IST
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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 comfortable, as the Congress, BJP and Left between them have 348 MPs in the 545-member house. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a reference to the 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 committee 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. Dalits demand With Parliament ready to vote on the Women’s Reservation Bill, minority and Dalit groups stepped up their demand for including the provision of quota for backward women and threatened to launch protests if the issue was not addressed. Representatives of the All India Milli Council, Jamaat-e- Islami, Dr B R Ambedkar Seva Dal and Insaan Dost Committee, who have been vocal for introducing a ‘quota within quota’ for women from the Muslim community, Dalit and other backward classes, said they would agitate over the issue on March 8 and would attempt to gherao Parliament. The Women’s Reservation Bill is to be presented in Parliament for passage on March 8. “If passed it (the Bill) would amount to injustice against the women belonging to minorities, Dalits and other backward would lead to further asymmetry in representation and would perpetuate the dominance of a few political families,” AIMC General Secretary Manzoor Alam told a news conference addressed by representatives of various organisations. He said the groups would converge at the Jantar Mantar on March 8 and would try to gherao Parliament. “Even if the bill is passed, we will continue our agitation for an amendment to the original draft, and will take the issue to the electorate, who are key to the success of political parties,” he said. Mujtaba Farooq of Jamaat-e-Islami said they were in favour of the reservation but in its present form, it will not benefit women of the most backward sections. Terming the Women’s Reservation Bill as “regressive”, Hyderbad MP Asaduddin Owaisi claimed that it was not in the interest of Muslims. “If the bill is passed then less number of Muslim will be able to come to the House. I would oppose it,” AIMIM MP told reporters outside parliament here. Owaisi, however, said “the UPA government has undertaken some good steps for Mulsims like introducing scholarship scheme but the proposed bill is a regressive step by the government.”

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