New Delhi: Signalling that all options are open, including amendments to some provisions of the controversial Women’s Reservation Bill passed by the Rajya Sabha two days ago, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on Thursday managed to temporarily mitigate the anger of political parties opposed to the legislation.
The government’s announcement that it would consult all sections before bringing the Bill to the Lok Sabha has put a question mark on the future of the Bill, which would reserve one-third of seats for women in the Lower House and state assemblies.
Congress leaders argue that breaking the deadlock in Parliament, which has been witnessing pandemonium and disruptions by those against the Bill, was “necessary as the government has to finish important business, including passage of the Union Budget”.
BJP whip: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj with party MPs after a meeting over the women’s Bill at the residence of parliamentary party chairman L.K. Advani in New Delhi on Thursday. Vijay Verma/PTI
Both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha were adjourned repeatedly on Thursday as protests continued. The Upper House was adjourned twice, with the Opposition demanding that the suspension of seven members of Parliament (MPs) be lifted. They had been evicted from the House on Tuesday ahead of the passage of the Bill.
Normalcy returned after the government indicated that the process of revoking the suspensions was on. In the Lok Sabha, members of the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Janata Dal (United) did not allow the Lower House to function, arguing that the Bill should include a quota for women belonging to other backward classes and minorities.
To break the stalemate in the House, the Congress leadership, which came under fire even from its allies for not holding proper consultations, held a number of meetings with the agitated leaders.
“Some sort of assurance was sought on the progress of the Constitution Amendment Bill (Women’s Reservation Bill) before bringing it to the Lok Sabha. The government will complete the process of consultations with all concerned,” finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said after meeting several leaders.
“I think this assurance would assuage the feelings of all members and the business would be conducted smoothly,” he said, when the House reassembled after two adjournments on the issue.
Earlier, Mukherjee told the Lok Sabha that all the issues could be “debated” and “decided” by the House.
The Lok Sabha began a debate on the Union Budget in the afternoon.
The leaders of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, facing dissent within over its decision to back the Bill, swung into a damage-control mode. “We will issue a whip to party MPs when the Bill comes up in the Lok Sabha,” leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said.
Mint’s Santosh K. Joy and PTI contributed to this story.