Common refrain is that nothing will change at the meeting
Ahead of the meeting on the Women's Reservation Bill scheduled for April 5, political parties — ranging from those fully committed to the Bill to those who are not averse to some changes, and still others who are totally opposed to the Bill — have once again reiterated their familiar positions.
Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee has invited representatives of all parties to gather at Parliament House to once again discuss the Bill, which has been adopted by the Rajya Sabha but is yet to be taken up for consideration and passage in the Lok Sabha.
The common refrain from leaders is that nothing will change and be achieved at the meeting as every party will reiterate its known stand.
Interestingly, although the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) had publicly stated that they would withdraw support from the United Progressive Alliance government, this had not happened so far. The Bahujan Samaj Party, which had abstained when the Bill was adopted by the Rajya Sabha, has also not made any change in its formal status as a supporter of the UPA.
The Congress Party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) both said on Wednesday that they stood fully committed to the Bill as passed in the Upper House and did not want to see any dilution of it.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which provided a large section of the ‘yes' votes to the Bill, has also said there is no rethink on the issue.
However, party leaders have added that if any changes are suggested by the government, it would react after studying the government's proposal. Since the passing of the Bill in the Rajya Sabha, the BJP leadership has been busy assuaging dissent in its ranks. It will be difficult for the party not to support the Bill as it has tried to take some credit for its successful passage in the Rajya Sabha.
The CPI (M)'s Brinda Karat said: “The government must follow through by bringing the Bill as passed by the Rajya Sabha to the Lok Sabha for passage. There should be no dilution.”
Jayanti Natarajan of the Congress expressed similar sentiments while asserting that “the party is fully committed to bringing the Bill to the Lok Sabha in its present form, without any dilution.” She added that the government would continue its efforts to persuade those opposing the Bill.
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said there was “no rethink” in the party on the Bill, and that efforts were on to get a consensus on it by assuring MPs that their concerns would be addressed.
Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United), who saw his party divided on the issue in the Rajya Sabha, told TheHindu that he would reiterate the known party stand in favour of a quota for backward caste women within the overall women's quota.
Mr. Yadav was opposed to the Bill in its present form, with the SP and RJD holding similar views. They want a sub-quota for backward caste women as well as Muslim women. With the Bihar Assembly elections due later this year, the demand for a quota for Muslim women has become part of the electoral game to attract minorities.
The Congress would have to face the issue if it continues to oppose the sub-quota demand, although it is well-known that constitutionally, sub-quotas cannot be entertained, except for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes where the quotas already exist and for which the provision has been made in the Women's Reservation Bill.
The government is aware that the number of MPs belonging to parties opposing the Bill in the Lok Sabha could be about 60. Smooth proceedings could become a problem as the BJP had emphasised that it would oppose the use of marshals to evict MPs.