New Delhi: Raising the number of seats in the Lok Sabha (LS) and the state assemblies is being seen as a way out to arrive at a consensus on the Women’s Reservation Bill which is being opposed in the present form by some political parties.
Both the government and the Congress have made it clear that there would be no dilution of the proposed 33% reservation for women in Lok Sabha and in state assemblies.
Over a decade after the exercise started, there is no unanimity on how to go about with the task without antagonising various sections.
“No male member will be willing to vote himself out,” said a member of the previous Parliamentary standing committee, which went into the controversial bill, suggesting that it would be a tall order to expect the members to back any measure that could hit them hard.
A former Union minister, who has earlier held parleys with opposition parties to reach a consensus on the issue, suggested that a solution can be found if the number of seats in the Lok Sabha, which now has strength of 543, is increased to accommodate women.
“Instead of sharing the existing seats, increasing the number of seats in the Lok Sabha could be a solution. If that is done, the government can even bring the Bill in the budget session,” another member of the committee said.
The member said that this arrangement could take care of the opposition to the Bill in the present form.
Opposition to the measure has come from leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP), Lalu Prasad (RJD) and Sharad Yadav (JD-U), who even went to the extent of saying that he would consume poison in the Lok Sabha if the legislation was passed.
Mulayam Singh Yadav has suggested that the quota be brought down to 20%.
Going against the BJP line, former party MP Vinay Katiyar said that if the Bill was passed in the present form, it will affect the unity and integrity of the country and create a big problem.
Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi is confident of the passage of the Bill. His contention is that the electoral arithmetic of the Congress is itself a big boost. Singhvi said: “Additionally we expect several non-Congress, non-UPA parties to support the Congress initiative.”
He also said that the changed circumstances and the diverse bipartisan support should also act as a reality check for those who are opposing the measure.
However, a section of the Congress wants the leadership to tread with caution on the Bill and not act in haste. If the government went ahead with it without addressing the concerns of those opposing, it could boomerang on the party, they feel.
A former Union minister said that if the opponents of the bill take to streets and project it as a move to help the upper castes, it could cost the party heavily at a time when the Congress was on the revival path in the north.
The previous Parliamentary standing committee, which has almost completed its job, is likely to be reconstituted in a week’s time and government would await its report.
In the backdrop of strong opposition from some parties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been maintaining a studied silence and skipped the issue in his reply to the motion of thanks to the President’s address in both Houses of Parliament.
Confident of getting the required support for the passage of the measure, Parliamentary affairs minister P.K. Bansal said that there will be no dilution in the Bill.
While BJP has made it clear that it was committed to 33% reservation for women and was against any dilution, it, however, left it to the government to adopt any formula that satisfied all parties.
President Pratibha Patil had in her address to the joint sitting of Parliament stated that the Bill was one of the priority agenda of the government.
Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, a strong votary of the measure, said “There is a new Parliament, a new atmosphere and fresh efforts are being made for a consensus.”