Under attack from friends and foes alike for failing to check spiralling inflation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will Monday finalise the roadmap for the women's reservation bill with the law ministry having prepared detailed notes to be taken up at the high level meet.
“The detailed notes are about two ways to implement quota. The first calls for reserving 33.3 per cent seats for women within the existing strengths of the two houses of parliament while the second option is to increase parliament's strength by 33.3 percent,” well-placed government sources said in the capital on Sunday.
Though there is nothing new in the draft notes, sources said a lot will depend upon how a key constituent of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) - the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) headed by Railways Minister Lalu Prasad - reacts to the bill.
Prasad, along with Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav, has been opposed to the bill in the present form and has sought quota within quota for the women belonging to the other backward classes (OBCs), an ideal that has not gone down well with the Left.
“The women's reservation bill can be tabled and passed in the current session of parliament if there is political will and consensus among the stake holders. Chances are high as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties are willing to support the bill in whatever form it is tabled,” sources said.
The current session of parliament is scheduled to end May 9.
The Bill, first introduced in the Lok Sabha September 1996 by then Law Minister Ramakant D Khalap, has seen more downs than ups since its inception. Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav frustrated efforts by HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral, prime ministers during the United Front government, to have the bill see the light of the day.
The bill, as the 81st Constitution amendment, was finally referred to a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) chaired by then member of the Lok Sabha Geeta Mukherjee.
The JPC presented its report to the 11th Lok Sabha December 9, 1996, and the bill was re-introduced June 26, 1998 in the 12th Lok Sabha as the 84th Constitution amendment bill by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The Bill was once again introduced in the 13th Lok Sabha November 22, 1999. The Left parties and the Congress gave written assurances to support the Bill if it was taken up. It was brought to the House once in 2002 and twice in 2003, but still the bill could not see the light of the day.
When the Congress-led UPA government came to power in May 2004, the Bill got a place in the alliance's common minimum programme (CMP) which said: “The UPA government will take the lead to introduce legislation for one-third reservations for women in Vidhan Sabhas and in the Lok Sabha.”
But the UPA government, too, has failed to introduce the bill in the Lok Sabha, which had only 44 elected women members in the May 2004 general election out of the total 539 candidates elected to the 14th House. “The BJP has publicly announced to support the bill to set aside reservation for women in parliament and the state assemblies, and we are committed to second the bill,” Vijay Kumar Malhotra, deputy leader of the party in the Lok Sabha, told IANS.
The idea of making a legal provision for reserving seats for women in parliament and the state assemblies first came up during Rajiv Gandhi's tenure as prime minister. It found realisation first when the Panchayati Raj Act, 1992 came into effect granting not less then 33 per cent reservation to women in the Panchayati Raj institutions or local bodies.