While the Janata Dal (United) is struggling to break ranks, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Samajwadi Party are determined to oppose the Women's Reservation Bill.
Both RJD chief Lalu Prasad and SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav have made their opposition clear, charging the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party with hatching a conspiracy against women of the deprived sections while heaping a bounty on the elite class.
The RJD and the SP have issued whips to their members to be present and vote against the Bill when it is taken up in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, though their combined number actually does not amount to much what with those supporting the measure commanding more than the two-thirds majority required for adopting it in a House with an effective strength of 233. The RJD has just four members and the SP 11.
Unlike the RJD, the JD(U) has decided against forcing a decision on its members with its chief whip Ali Anwar stressing that no whip will be issued to any of its seven members, six of whom are likely to participate in the debate. Veteran leader George Fernandes is indisposed and is unlikely to be present in the House.
The RJD chief has taken exception to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's sudden change of heart, accusing him of adopting double standards under political compulsions as the Assembly elections are just seven or eight months away.
The JD(U) is holding a meeting of its parliamentary party at party chief Sharad Yadav's residence here on Monday to evolve consensus. While the party is divided on the issue, it is very likely that Mr. Kumar's view will prevail at least in the Rajya Sabha as most of the vocal opponents of the Bill hail from the Lok Sabha.
Its Rajya Sabha members opposing the Bill see no reason for taking a hard line particularly when the House is set to adopt it, which is precisely the reason Mr. Kumar has given up his professed opposition to any reservation for women without allowing sub-quotas for the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, backward classes and Muslims.
Moreover, Mr. Kumar does not want the Congress to run away with the credit for the passage of the Bill, especially when the JD(U) is facing a State election. That will only mean the upper castes rising to the Congress bait.
Of equal concern to Mr. Kumar is the fact that the Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by the United Progressive Alliance government when the RJD chief was part of the Union Cabinet and, hence, had his consent — wholehearted or not.
Mr. Kumar also feels that it is not wise to go against the current, with almost all sections of society like the administration, non-governmental organisations and women's organisation favouring the Bill, irrespective of its not taking care of the deprived sections in particular.