Trouble is brewing for the Women’s Reservation Bill with a section of BJP MPs in Lok Sabha expressing their opposition to the measure and threatening to vote against it and the party on Thursday decided to crack on the dissenters by issuing a whip to them to back it.
The BJP top brass swung into damage control and decided to issue a whip to its MPs to make them toe the party line.
Facing rebellion, top party leaders including the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley and former party chief Rajnath Singh met the dissenting MPs on Thursday morning and sought to allay their fears over the Bill which seeks to reserve one third of the seats in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies for women.
“We will issue a whip to party MPs when the bill comes up in Lok Sabha,” Ms. Swaraj said after the meeting. Defiance of the whip can attract disqualification provisions against the members. BJP MPs had supported the measure in Rajya Sabha.
Prominent among those opposing the bill are Yogi Adityanath, MP from Gorakhpur, former Union Minister Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav, an old socialist from the Janata Dal parivar, and party’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha Ramesh Bais.
Some of the party MPs are even said to have threatened to vote against the measure when it is taken up in the Lower House. The support of BJP, which has 116 members in Lok Sabha, is crucial for the passage of the Constitutional Amendment Bill.
Mr. Bais, who had maintained on Wednesday that several party MPs had problems with the Bill in its present form and would air their grievances before the senior leaders, today said he had been misunderstood.
Former Union Minister Murli Manohar Joshi said there may have been differences among some sections of the party but once BJP takes a stand everybody will have to go by it.
“In a democratic party, members may have different opinions on an issue and these can be discussed. But on the Bill the party has taken a stand and everybody will have to adhere to it,” he said.
On the issue of a whip to members in the Lok Sabha like it had been done for the party MPs in Rajya Sabha, Mr. Joshi, however, said, “The issue of whether whip should be issued in a democracy is debatable.” Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav, who was said to be one of the main opponents of the Bill in the BJP, did a volte-face on Thursday morning, saying “I was with the BJP decision on supporting the Bill when it came in Rajya Sabha and will abide by the party decision when it comes up in Lok Sabha.Whatever I have to say about the Bill, I will say in the party forum,” he told PTI.
When asked about his earlier stand against the Bill, he said, “The press may have thought that since other Yadavs like Lalu and Mulayam are opposed to the Bill, I would be opposed too. Also because I am a socialist like them. But if I was in agreement with them, I would be in their party and would not have joined BJP.”
Yogi Adityanath, who had earlier also aired his views against the Bill, has warned the party that the measure could be a Congress strategy to divert attention from the BJP agenda of taking on the Government on price rise and internal security.
He may finally toe the party line after senior leaders like Mr. Joshi and Mr. Singh talk to him on the issue.
Meanwhile, some of the firefighters in the party are also hoping that the Government will not bring the Bill in Lok Sabha as it wants the finance Bills to be cleared first.