Voting on women's bill deferred, unruly scenes in RS


In an anti-climax, voting on the women's reservation bill in the Rajya Sabha was deferred on Monday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh likely to call an all-party meeting on the issue on Tuesday after Samajwadi Party and RJD threatened to withdraw support to the UPA government.

On a day of dramatic developments, the Constitution amendment bill for reserving one-third of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies was tabled in the Rajya Sabha amidst unruly scenes with the opponents of the measure belonging to SP, RJD and an expelled member of the JD (U) tearing the copies of the measure and virtually trying to attack Chairman Hamid Ansari.

After five adjournments, the House was adjourned for the day at 1800 hours without the bill being taken up despite the government having the numbers to carry the legislation through.

But the staunch opponents-SP and RJD which has 25 MPs in the Lok Sabha sent ominous signals to the government that has important money bills and Budgets to adopt in the Lower House that its majority may be made wafer-thin, just above the half-way mark of 272, if the BSP, which too is opposed to the legislation, also withdraws support.

This was followed by hectic consultations between the Prime Minister and his senior Cabinet colleagues and with leaders of the supporters of the bill--BJP and Left parties and with the opponents-Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad together and with BSP's Satish Chandra Mishra separately.

The leaders opposing the bill made it clear to the Prime Minister that their parties would vote against it in its present form without quota for women belonging to OBCs and Muslims and that there was no no change.

Though nothing was officially said by the government the leaders came with the impression that the Prime Minister would call an all-party meeting tomorrow, a demand made by the opponents, apparently to discuss a way out for adopting the legislation in a harmonious way.

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