New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday began discussion on the Women’s Reservation Bill, a day after it was moved in the House for consideration but could not be taken up because of unruly scenes with some members even trying to attack Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari.
After three adjournments and suspension and eviction of seven disruptive members, the House took up the debate at 3 pm amid vociferous protests from MPs of SP and RJD, who were opposing the historic bill and demanding withdrawal of the suspension order.
Before the discussion began, the House witnessed an unusual development wherein the Chairman put the Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, granting 33% reservation to women in Lok Sabha and all state assemblies, to voice vote but later called for a debate on it.
Ansari put the bill, moved on Monday for consideration, to voice vote as the suspended members, squatting in the well for three hours, refused to budge and continued to chant slogans to disrupt the proceedings.
But when the Chairman called for division of votes, MPs of BJP and Left parties, which are supporting the bill, objected and wanted a debate.
Meanwhile, marshals were ordered eviction of the suspended members - Subhash Yadav (RJD), Sabir Ali (LJP), Veerpal Singh Yadav, Nand Kishore Yadav, Amir Alam Khan and Kamal Akhtar (all SP), and Ejaz Ali (Unattached), who had on Monday created unprecedented pandemonium and even tried to attack Ansari.
Normalcy was restored in the House after their forcible eviction and the bill was taken up for discussion.
Trinamool not to vote on Women’s Bill
Accusing the government of trying to bulldoze the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha, UPA ally Trinamool Congress on Tuesday said its MPs will not participate in the voting as it was not intimated about it.
Union minister of state for health Dinesh Trivedi and Trinamool’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha Sudip Bandopadhyay told reporters outside Parliament that the two members from their party were not present in the Rajya Sabha as they had no idea that the Bill would come up for voting today.
“The way the Women’s Reservation Bill was brought up for voting in the Rajya Sabha today, we are shocked to see the procedure adopted on the floor of the House,” Bandopadhyay said here.
“We don’t want to see that the parliamentary democracy is being more or less bulldozed. We are opposed to the manner in which the Bill was taken up for voting. Any forcible attempt to get the Bill pass cannot be supported. Today, we are not going to take part (in the voting) in the Rajya Sabha,” he said referring to the use of marshals to evict members opposed to the Bill in its present form.
Making it clear that Trinamool Congress, the second largest party in UPA, was not opposed to the Bill, Trivedi said the party had conveyed to the government that it was “opposed to any kind of force” because in democracy “consensus and discussion” were important.
“Our party members in the Rajya Sabha were not intimated about the voting. No discussion took place with Trinamool Congress about voting,” he added.
JD(U) faces danger of split
Even as discussion on the Women’s Reservation Bill began in Rajya Sabha, JD(U) faces the danger of witnessing a split in its ranks as its MPs are divided over the issue.
The party has traditionally opposed the bill, with its chief Sharad Yadav having always said that he is in favour of a quota within quota for Dalit, backward and Muslim women.
The situation within the party, however, changed dramatically last week following Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s statement in favour of the bill.
With several party MPs owing allegiance to both Sharad and Nitish sending out mixed signals, the party stares at the possibility of a vertical split within its ranks.
On Monday, the divide within JD(U) seemed apparent when party’s chief whip in Lok Sabha Mangani Lal Mandal (considered a Sharad loyalist) issued a statement signed by 17 of its total 20 Lok Sabha MPs, which said that Yadav has been urged to speak to Kumar and then get a whip issued on the bill.
However, Yadav on Tuesday said that he is yet to speak with Kumar on the issue.
“I am yet to speak to Nitish Kumar. I could not do so as the last 48 hours have been very hectic. I just spoke to him a couple of days back and will speak to him again,” he said.
Yadav also said the party’s parliamentary party meeting scheduled on Tuesday has been deferred indefinitely “due to lack of time”. He, however, nodded in affirmative when asked whether he continues to oppose the bill.