On March 8, the hundredth anniversary of International Women's Day, the government intends to push through the long-pending women's reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha to give women 33 per cent reservation in the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies.
Four hours have been allotted for consideration and passing of this Bill by the Rajya Sabha Business Advisory Committee meeting here on Thursday; Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has indicated that he will make an announcement in Parliament on Friday on the government's intention to bring the Bill to the Upper House on Monday.
A strong political green signal came on Thursday from Congress president and chairman of its parliamentary party Sonia Gandhi, who told her party MPs that she attached the “highest importance” to the women's reservation Bill and it would take forward the former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi's dream of women's empowerment. What a gift it would be if in the centenary year of International Women's Day the Bill were to be passed, she said.
Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj was equally enthusiastic. She said the Bharatiya Janata Party would certainly issue a three-line whip to ensure that all its MPS were present and voted in favour of the Bill.
From the left of the political spectrum, Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) suggested at the BAC meeting that the House pass the Bill without a debate or discussion. The idea, it seems, is to give no time to the handful of legislators opposed to the Bill to prevent the House from expressing its will on this legislation.
The government strategy, parliamentary sources indicated, was to ensure that those in favour of the Bill — from the Congress, the BJP, the Left and several other parties — remain in the seats allotted to them and press the buttons signalling a “yea' in favour of the piece of legislation as soon as division is asked for and it is put to vote. The projected numbers show a comfortable two-thirds majority for the Bill as required for a Constitution amendment.
The BJP is not too worried that the Bill could expose the recently demonstrated Opposition unity on the prices front. “It is an issue-based unity and if on the women's issue we are on the same side of the government, and some of our supporters on the prices issue like the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Janata Dal (United) take a different stand, it does not matter at all,” Ms. Swaraj said.