Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said on Monday that the intention of the government on the Women's Reservation Bill was suspect.

After meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the issue, Mr. Jaitley said: “I go back today [on Monday] evening with a distinct impression that the intention of the government is suspect. This government has developed cold feet [after the SP and the RJD threatened to withdraw support].”

Dr. Singh had called him and Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj to discuss the fate the Bill in the wake of strident opposition by the SP and the RJD.

Mr. Jaitley said the Bill was not likely to be passed “unless something spectacular happens tomorrow [on Tuesday].”

When it was pointed out that Law Minister Veerappa Moily had assured that the Bill would come up for discussion on Tuesday, Mr. Jaitley said the government might have listed it only as a formality but it was clear from its attitude that it had lost steam and was back — tracking despite Opposition support.

“The government is shivering and has become nervous... It has no strategy to see passage of the Bill,” he said.

Ms. Swaraj said the BJP was both “dejected and disappointed” with the government failure to steer the Bill and for lacking in strategic floor management to get it passed.

She said they had told Dr. Singh that the BJP was ready to vote for the Bill even at midnight but after a thorough debate.

Mr. Jaitley said passing such an important legislation without discussion was not possible as it was a “question of the legitimacy of the Bill and Parliament, and this would be akin to making a mockery of Parliament.”

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Ambika Soni, however, defended the government, saying “the Centre does not believe in a ham-handed approach” on the issue.

“We wanted a discussion on the Bill in the Rajya Sabha but the Opposition parties behaved in an unruly manner,” she said.

She said “the unfinished agenda of today [of the Bill's passage] has been listed for tomorrow.”

Ms. Soni said the government never tried to take credit for introducing the Bill in the Rajya Sabha. “We never tried to score brownie points. We always said that it has been joint effort by all the parties,” she said.

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