Is the time right for the UPA government to try and push the Women’s Reservation Bill? Many in the combine believe it is. “We may never get another opportunity of this kind,’’ said a Congress leader, seeking anonymity.
The three major formations — the Congress, BJP and Left — at least on record favour passing the Bill. With like-minded parties like the NCP and the Trinamool Congress as its pre-poll allies, the ruling Congress has enough members to push through the constitutional amendment that needs two thirds majority in the House — or the support of around 364 MPs in the 545-member House.
The question is will it?
At the first Cabinet meeting on May 23, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar reportedly mooted that the Bill be passed this time. And while felicitating Meira Kumar over her election as Speaker, AIADMK’s M. Thambidurai expressed hope that the bill would be adopted under her Speakership.
But as was seen in 1996, 1998 and 1999, determined opponents can block the Bill.
Though the RJD has only four MPs this time, the Samajwadi Party has 21—enough to create yet another storm over the bill in the House.
“The bill is not acceptable to us in the present form,’’ SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav told reporters outside Parliament.
Asked whether he would oppose it again, he shot back: “Let the Bill first come before Parliament, then we will see.’’
Unlike earlier occasions, the UPA had introduced the contentious Bill in the Rajya Sabha in 2008 to ensure that it did not lapse.
Meira Kumar’s elevation as the country’s first woman Speaker has brought the Bill into sharp focus.