With key opponents of the Women’s Reservation Bill, the RJD and the SP, winning less than 30 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha, a resurgent UPA can pursue passage of the legislation with renewed vigour.
The Bill, first introduced in Parliament 13 years ago, seeks 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.
The Bill was referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee as the RJD and SP had opposed it, demanding a sub-quota for Other Backward Classes and minorities.
The Bill, which is a proposed constitutional amendment, requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament and has to be ratified by a 50 per cent majority in the state legislatures to be converted into law.
At the first meeting of UPA on Wednesday, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said the new government must ensure passage of the Bill in Parliament.
Despite opposition from the RJD and SP, the UPA had introduced the Bill in the Rajya Sabha in May 2008. A Parliamentary Standing Committee consisting of 20 members from the Lok Sabha and 11 members from the Rajya Sabha was constituted to study the proposed Bill and make its recommendations.
Congress spokesperson A.M. Singhvi said the Bill remains high on the Congress’s agenda. “With a new electoral configuration, we are hopeful and confident of a positive result,” he said.
Congress leader Kapil Sibal said, “When the Bill comes back from the standing committee, no political party will have the courage to oppose it.”
Supporting the Bill, CPM leader Brinda Karat said, “Now that the Congress has a freer hand and has the numbers, it is a good opportunity for the government to bring the Bill out of cold storage.”
E.M. Sudarshana Natchiappan, chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee scrutinising the Bill over the past six months told HT that as a new government is being been formed, the panel would have to be re-constituted.
Natchiappan said there were two basic issues at present -- whether to pass the Bill as it is, with 33 per cent reservation in the available 543 seats or to add seats to the Lok Sabha to accommodate new women MPs. If the first option is adopted, many of the newly elected Lok Sabha members will have to vacate their seats to make way for women.