Janata Dal (United), one of the last opponents of the women’s reservation bill, stood sharply divided on the issue on Saturday, with its top leaders going public with their divergent views.
Ahead of the bill being taken up for consideration in Rajya Sabha on Monday, party president Sharad Yadav said there was no change in the stand, and JD(U) would continue to oppose the bill in its present form.
“Nitishji has given a suggestion and it will be discussed. The party stand is not an overnight thing and it remains unchanged. All we are saying is an important bill should not pushed without a consensus,” Yadav told HT.
His comments came in response to Bihar Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, going public in support of the bill reserving one-thirds seats in the Lok Sabha and state legislatures.
“When I was a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee, I had given a dissent note (more than a decade ago). Now the time has come to give women reservation in parliament and assemblies,” he said in Patna.
“Ideally, women of extremely backward and backward castes should be provided reservation in parliament and assemblies. We will continue our efforts in that direction. I will talk to Sharadji and appeal to him to allow the bill to be passed,” Kumar said.
However, in Delhi, Yadav remained defiant and dared the Congress and BJP to allow their MPs to vote freely on the issue.
“If they are saying they have the majority then I challenge them not to issue any whip. JD(U) will also not issue a whip and then if they succeed in passing the bill, I will be the first to accept it,” he said.
Former JD(U) state chief Rajiv Ranjan Singh (Lallan), Kumar’s close aide who recently fell out with him, said the party MPs would decide the stand to be taken.
“He (Kumar) has changed his stand. One should not change the stand with a change in status.”
The Congress welcomed Kumar’s statement.
“We hope other parties and leaders...will also modify their views and support the bill,” party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said.