The Bharatiya Janata Party is busy trying to take maximum credit for the passage of the Women's Reservation Bill by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday even as it openly expressed fears that the Congress would run away with expected positive political fallout.
Leaders of the Opposition in the two Houses of Parliament, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, made it plain they took the initiative to ensure support from almost all the parties of the National Democratic Alliance (minus a section of the Janata Dal – United) and they also insisted on a proper debate and order at the time of voting.
They criticised the vandalism in the Rajya Sabha by those opposing the Bill and claimed it was their initiative that prevented a possible disgraceful presence of marshals in the House during the vote on the Bill.
“The uprooting of microphones, the climbing on the podium of the Chairman was shameful behaviour,” said Ms. Swaraj even as she criticised the Congress for not consulting and taking on board parties of the Opposition that were supporting the Bill. “We learnt from newspapers that the women's Bill constitutional amendment was being brought in in the Rajya Sabha on Monday,” she said. “All that has somewhat clouded my happiness on the passing of the Bill.”
The BJP's charge was that the government was inclined to put the Bill to vote without a debate, which would have also been disgraceful. Mr. Jaitley made the point that it was the BJP that had insisted on a proper debate, after which other parties took the same view. It was also the BJP that objected to presence of marshals when the division was called out and members asked to vote.
The party was also categorical in maintaining that it was committed to this piece of legislation that took to its logical conclusion the process that had begun with reservation for women in panchayats and local bodies. Ms. Swaraj recalled that way back in 1994 after the reservation was provided for women in local bodies, the BJP national council meeting in Vadodara had adopted a resolution supporting political reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies. The resolution was moved by the then party president, L.K. Advani, and pushed through without a debate.
Ms. Swaraj also recalled that when she was Parliamentary Affairs Minister in the Vajpayee government and met the then Leader of the Opposition, Sonia Gandhi, for support for the Bill, Ms. Gandhi had assured her: “I will fully support you. It was my husband's dream.”
Mr. Jaitley was vocal in his support for the principle of rotation of reserved seats envisaged in the Bill and said it would usher in a social revolution, preparing the ground for women leaders throughout the country.
And above all, the party received the go-ahead from its new president Nitin Gadkari, who had called a meeting of the party's core committee to send a strong message to the party cadre that the Bill must be supported by the BJP.