The former Union Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief, Lalu Prasad, on Thursday demanded that the government convene an all-party meeting to evolve a consensus before going ahead with passing the Women’s Reservation Bill in its present form in the Rajya Sabha on March 8.
He was speaking in the Lok Sabha on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address to the joint session of Parliament.
Mr. Prasad said that the government should know the views of all the parties and not rush with the proposal, which he said was a conspiracy to deny rights to the deprived sections of society.
The discussion on the motion of thanks was used by those opposing the Bill to make their stand clear, underscoring their confrontation against the government’s move to press for the discussion and approval of the Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Monday.
Another significant aspect was that those demanding reservation for backward sections among the Muslims — as recommended by the Ranganath Mishra Commission — saw the Bill as a conspiracy to scuttle their demand.
Mr. Prasad warned that the Bill would be opposed at all levels and not allowed to be passed at any cost in the present form without providing for reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, backward sections and Dalits among the Muslims.
“The present Bill seeks to give reservation to those who win elections even without reservation,” the RJD chief said. He wondered why the Congress was bothered about women’s reservation alone when justice was yet to be done with respect to the backward sections among the Muslims and other socially-deprived sections.
“UPA ignoring issues”
Mr. Prasad added that the UPA government was not interested in addressing the issues related to women who were slogging it out in the rural hinterland without proper meals, and regarding payment to those appointed as Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs).
He also pointed out that many women had been given their due and made it big politically without any reservation. He cited the examples of President Pratibha Patil, Speaker of the Lok Sabha Meira Kumar, Congresss president Sonia Gandhi, Sushma Swaraj, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalithaa, and Vasundhra Raje Scindia.
On reservation for backward Muslims, Mr. Prasad demanded that the Constitution be amended so as to accommodate them.
Asaduddin Owaisi of the All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul also opposed the Bill, saying that it was detrimental to his community.
“It will deprive the Muslims of their due share of power,” Mr. Owaisi said, and demanded that Muslims be given reservation first on the grounds that they were socially and economically backward.
Congress member Israrul Haq favoured reservation for backward Muslims and contended that this could be provided through an administrative order.
The Bahujan Samaj Party’s Mali Ram also said that the present form of the Bill was unacceptable as it did not provide for separate reservation for the SCs, STs, backward sections and backward Muslims.