The controversial Women's Reservation Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday and the fresh legislative attempt of the government too was marked by high voltage drama and unruly scenes involving scuffles between ministers and opposition Samajwadi Party members.
The bid on the last day of the three-month long Budget session saw immediate resistance by Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party which has been against the measure in its present form as also Janata Dal (United).
SP member Abu Asim Azmi moved menacingly towards Law Minister HR Bhardwaj as he rose to introduce the bill and tried to snatch the copy, but the foray was repulsed by Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chaudhary and other alert women party members, including Jayanti Natarajan.
The bill, seeking to reserve one-third of the seats for women in Lok Sabha and state assemblies, was subsequently referred to the Standing Committee for scrutiny and the government expressed confidence that the bill would be passed in the Monsoon session after seeking views of all parties.
As Bharadwaj sought leave for introduction of the bill, some of the SP members were seen tearing papers and shouted slogans against the government move. It was not known whether it was a copy of the bill or some other papers.
Natarajan, who acted as one of the shields to Bhardwaj against the physical onslaught of SP members, has since moved a Privilege Motion against Azmi for "pushing and shoving" her physically.
Controversy and violence are not new to the bill which was first moved in September 1996 by the HD Deve Gowda government. Sensing trouble, Bharadwaj was seated in the middle row of the treasury benches flanked by two women ministers -- Kumari Selja and Ambika Soni. On top of it, Congress women MPs Natarajan and Alka Kshatriya were standing in aisles to guard Bharadwaj from the belligerent SP members.
Top leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Leader of Opposition Jaswant Singh, were witness to the scenes. Several Lok Sabha MPs were also seated in the gallery.
"Take back the Women's Reservation Bill," shouted the members from the Well. They were supported by the JD(U) members who were on their feet.
Azmi told reporters later that his party would continue to oppose the bill until reservation is ensured for women belonging to OBC, Dalits and Muslims.
"We will raise this issue when the bill comes up for discussion in the standing committee also," he said. Government on its part described the day's event as "quite unfortunate" with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi saying it was not expected of colleagues in the Upper House. "We can differ, we can object but physical resistance is quite unfortunate," he said.
Different governments since 1996 have tried to get the Women's Reservation Bill passed without success. It was one of the main promises in the National Common Minimum Programme of the UPA government as well. However, Manmohan Singh government could not secure political consensus among the UPA partners, notably RJD. The BJP and Left favoured the measure aimed at women's empowerment.
The main objection from the SP, JD(U) as also the RJD related to their demand for quota within quota.