Ruckus precedes dumping of Bill
Faced with tremendous opposition to the constitutional amendment Bill proposing 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and state legislatures, the Vajpayee Government on Tuesday deferred its introduction in the Lok Sabha.
The government's decision came in the wake of an all-party meeting chaired by Speaker Manohar Joshi. At the meeting, three allies of the government — the Samata Party, the Shiv Sena and the JD(U) — opposed the Bill which was to be introduced in the Lower House this evening.
Earlier, Lok Sabha was adjourned till lunch with the members opposed to the Bill creating a rumpus. Samajwadi Party leaders crowded the well and tried to silence Congress deputy leader Shivraj Patil when he said that his party "stood by the Bill". Patil's remark, that "if the Constitution is made casteist it would be dangerous for the country", triggered a reaction from the SP members who shouted anti-Congress slogans and squatted in the well.
As soon as the House assembled, agitated MPs of the Samajwadi Janata Party and RJD rushed to the well vehemently opposing the Bill. Members from the Shiv Sena and Samata were also on their feet.
When Joshi intervened, the protesting members returned to their seats. SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said his party was not against reservation for women in Parliament and state legislatures. "But we are opposed to the Bill in its present form. Let it be amended and provisions brought in for reservation for women belonging to the oppressed classes. We will support it. The one that the government wants to introduce has several shortcomings," Yadav said.
Supporting Yadav, RJD's Raghuvansh Prasad Singh alleged that the ruling BJP and the Congress had "entered into a conspiracy" to get the Bill passed.
Pointing out that there were several women Chief Ministers, Singh said a move was afoot to "grab seats" in the name of womens' reservation. "We will not allow that to happen and expose the unholy alliance that the Congress and the BJP have entered into," Singh said pointing towards the Congress and Treasury benches.
The BJP was embarrassed when one of its allies, the Shiv Sena, said that the government sought to introduce the Bill in the Lok Sabha without even consulting the party. Amidst thumping of desks by SP members, Shiv Sena's Chandrakant Khaire contended that reservation of women should be left to individual parties.
But there was pandemonium when Samata member Prabhunath Singh made an unparliamentary remark. Pointing out to Deputy PM LK Advani, who was present in the House, that his party was not consulted by the government, Singh said: "Our party may not be wedded to yours, but watch out for the concubine whose support you are seeking to get this Bill through," Singh said referring to the Congress.
This drew loud protests from the Congress members, who sought withdrawal of the remark and an apology from Singh. The Speaker immediately ruled that the term be expunged from the records.