The Rajya Sabha was easy compared to what awaits the women’s reservation bill in the Lok Sabha. The government, therefore, is unlikely to put it to vote there before the crucial finance bill (Budget) is out of the way, which could be around the third week of April.
<b1>The government might introduce the women’s bill on March 15 or 16, after the vote on accounts and before the Lok Sabha breaks for a three-week recess — to allow House committees to go through the voluminous budget proposals.
“The bill can be tabled on March 15 or 16,” said Law Minister Veerappa Moily, who has to pilot the bill in the Lok Sabha. The Business Advisory Committee of the Lok Sabha, which slots the agenda for the House, is to meet on Friday.
But the discussion, if any, and the voting is expected to take place only after April 12 when the House reconvenes after the recess, and then too after the Finance Bill vote.
Here is what awaits the Bill: 47 MPs of the parties ranged against the legislation that seeks to reserve a third of the seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies for 15 years – the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Bahujan Samaj Party.
With 28 MPs they held up the Bill in the Rajya Sabha for almost two days. The passage through the Lok Sabha is likely to be stormier. And the government doesn’t want to leave the Finance Bill for after the women’s Bill.
A senior Minister said the government’s priority was to get the financial business out of the way. And that means the Bill is likely to be taken up sometime after the vote on the Finance Bill in the third week of April.
The ruling United Progressive Alliance also wants time for some urgent house keeping. For starters, Congress president Sonia Gandhi seeking to reassure her own male MPs, who are worried about the impact of the bill on their political future, by hosting a dinner for them on Thursday.
On Wednesday, in a bid to keep the UPA intact, Gandhi spoke to Trinamool leader Mamata Bannerjee who was upset at the exclusion of minorities from the one-third reservation for women.
Parties like the RJD, the SP and the BSP, which are opposing the bill, comprise a block of 47 MPs (including SP’s expelled member Jaya Prada, who has come out in support of the Bill).
Should they withdraw support on the issue, the UPA would be left with 274 members only--- a wafer-thin majority in the 543-member House.
The government has managed to obtain the support of seven independent and unattached members to help it tide over any hitches when it comes to clearing financial business and passing the Budget.
“We don’t want a repetition of what happened in the Rajya Sabha when we bring the Bill," said a Congress minister.
The party’s senior members such as Pranab Mukherjee would be speaking to leaders of alliance partners as well as opponents to the bill such as Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav.
The Yadavs are sending signals that they might consider the Bill if the percentage of quota was reduced from 33 to 13 or 15.