Amid unprecedented scenes of bedlam in the Rajya Sabha, the government on Monday tabled the Women's Reservation Bill for consideration and passage, but failed in its floor strategy to even initiate a discussion in the face of continuous disruptions by a handful of members.
The 108th Constitution Amendment Bill (Women's Reservation Bill) provides for 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and Legislative Assemblies and its intended passage was positioned to be a milestone on the centennial of International Women's Day on Monday.
On a day of fast moving developments, the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal withdrew support to the government and its leaders met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee while the Bill itself was deferred to Tuesday.
Though the Bill was tabled in the Upper House, both Houses were frequently adjourned as members of the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Lok Jan Shakti Party vociferously protested against the tabling of the Bill.
In the Lok Sabha, RJD leader Lalu Prasad and SP chief Mulayam Singh trooped into the well of the House and got into heated arguments with senior Congress leaders, who pleaded with them to return to their seats.
In the Upper House, as soon as Chairman Hamid Ansari called Law Minister Veerappa Moily to table the Bill, SP and RJD members moved into the well of the House and tore its copies.
A stunned house saw Nand Kishore Yadav (SP) pull out mikes and pens from the Chairman's desk, even as Subhash Yadav, Rajniti Prasad (both RJD) and Sabir Ali (LJP) tugged at the mike and the pen stand of the Secretary-General. Kamal Akhtar (SP) jumped on the table of the House reporters and did a jig. Ambika Soni (Congress) walked towards the podium to prevent the members but returned. A few marshalls made a feeble attempt to hold back the members.
Mr. Ansari immediately adjourned the House. After that, the House met thrice, only to be adjourned within minutes as those opposed to the Bill continued to stall the proceedings. At least 12 marshals were posted on either side of the Chair to prevent a repeat of the post-lunch break ugly scenes.
After five adjournments, the Chair finally adjourned the House for the day to the disappointment of women members. CPI(M) member Brinda was heard shouting “shame, shame.''
In the morning, SP members disrupted the proceedings for the tabling of the Ranganath Mishra Commission report that recommended reservation in jobs for minorities. Like their colleagues in the Lok Sabha, they did not allow the question hour to commence.
Even as there was speculation about whether the House would move to initiate action against those who heckled the Chairman, the RJD chief met Mr. Ansari and reportedly expressed regret.
The Business Advisory Committee of the Rajya Sabha had allocated four hours for discussion on the Bill, but frequent adjournments did not allow the discussion to take place at all. Towards the end of the day, when the Prime Minister met the leaders of the supporting parties, namely the BJP, CPI, CPI(M) and the TDP, all expressed their willingness to sit late on Monday to discuss and vote on the Bill. However, at 6 p.m, the House was adjourned for the day within a minute of its assembly.
Such was the interest in the Bill that the gallery of the Lok Sabha members was packed with women members, including Girija Vyas, Supriya Sule, Priya Dutt, Deepa Dasmunsi and Agatha Sangma. Subashini Ali and journalist Inderjit were seen in the visitor's gallery.