The majority members of the parliamentary wing of the Janata Dal (United) on Monday raised the banner of revolt against party supremo and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar by refusing to go along with his abrupt support for the Women's Reservation Bill and demanded that he reconsider his decision.
It is perhaps the first time that such a revolt has taken place against Mr. Kumar after he took over as the Chief Minister and wrested control of the Janata Dal (United) easing out veteran George Fernandes as the party chief and installing Sharad Yadav in his place.
Be that as it may, Mr. Yadav gathered no less than 17 MPs in the Lok Sabha on his side to oppose the Bill in its present form and reaffirm the social justice plank. They reiterated their stand for sub quotas for Dalits, backwards and Muslims within the 33 per cent of reservation that the Bill seeks to provide for women in Parliament and State legislatures.
The effort of Mr. Kumar to evolve a consensus in the parliamentary party came a cropper and his supporters virtually beat a hasty retreat. The group under Mr. Yadav not only had its say but played it out in such a manner as to send a clear message to both Mr. Kumar and their constituencies on the issue.
The first meeting of the entire JD(U) parliamentary party held at Mr. Yadav's residence failed to reach a consensus. Then a second was held in the Lok Sabha even as the morning session was under way, though it was brief.
This meeting was attended by as many as 17 MPs in the Lok Sabha where the JD(U) has 20 members. None of the seven Rajya Sabha members participated. All those who attended the meeting, including those from the forward castes, resolved to oppose the Bill in its present form.
The crucial aspect of the meeting was that it adopted a resolution authorising Mr. Yadav to take up the issue with Mr. Kumar and ensure that the party issued a whip on the issue in the Lok Sabha at least.
The note did not specify which way the party should vote in the Lok Sabha, but the inference was obvious.
In case of a whip then the three members supporting Mr. Kumar will have little choice but to join forces with the rebel group and vote against the Bill.
The members trooped into the Lok Sabha to attend the post-lunch session and expressed their opposition to the Bill.