With the Rajya Sabha reflecting near unanimity on the Women's Reservation Bill, Tuesday's debate on the landmark legislation rose above party lines, barring an occasional jab at the government.
The government said the determination and reservation of seats for women would be looked into by a separate piece of legislation just as it was done in the case of delimitation.
Piloting the constitutional amendment Bill in the Rajya Sabha, Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily said, “[The] time has come to act and act boldly,” and urged members to pass the Bill to demonstrate that when it came to taking progressive measures, the country would not look back.
On separate quota for OBCs and minorities demanded by the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Mr. Moily said, “There are some misgivings,” and pointed out that there had been no national census based on caste since 1930s. He said a backward caste in one State might not be so in another State.
Kanimozhi (DMK) said MPs came to the House with euphoria on Monday and went back with a heavy heart when the Bill could not be taken up. On demands for quota to OBC/minorities, she said changes could be made later just as in Tamil Nadu where the government took care to protect the interests of a small community.
Satish Misra (BSP) said the party could not support the Bill in the present form. He said party president Mayawati wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stating that women from OBC/minorities and even economically backward forward castes be provided reservation. At the same time, the party did not want the government to reduce the current 27.5 per cent reservation for SCs/STs by allocating a share of it to women under the proposed Bill.
Recounting the progressive initiative by party chief Jayalalithaa, AIADMK member V. Maitreyan had some Congress members thump the desk for stating that the sagacity of Indian women in handling household budget surpassed the skill of the Finance Minister. He also praised the role of Indira Gandhi in taking on the United States that led to Atal Bihari Vajpayee likening her to Goddess Durga.
Significantly, Shivanand Tiwari's (JD-U) support signalled the division in the party on the issue. Saying that Bihar had taken the lead in providing reservation for most backward classes, he felt that apprehension among the Muslims should be addressed.
Tariq Anwar (NCP) criticised some parties for advocating reservation for OBC/minorities women.They did nothing when they ran governments in the State and instead promoted their own family members.
Giving a ‘Red Salute' to the late party leader Geeta Mukherjee for championing the cause of women's reservation, D. Raja (CPI) said the measure was not a charity but an earnest desire that women be given their due place in decision making. He expressed the hope that Dr. Manmohan Singh did not face similar pressures that forced Jawaharlal Nehru to shelve the Hindu Code Bill.
Najma Heptulla (BJP) took on the Congress for its handling of floor coordination on Monday and earlier on Tuesday. Kapila Vatsyayana (nominated) said that while it was a momentous moment, it was “for us to show action what we have showed in legislation.”