The Central government on Friday took one more step forward in preparation for the Constitution amendment that would, if passed, bring in 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal invited the whips of all political parties for lunch where he requested them to issue whips to their members to be present in the Rajya Sabha when the Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Bill 2008 is taken up for consideration and passage on March 8. After Monday the same Bill would be renamed as The Constitution (Ninety-sixth Amendment) Bill 2010.

The Congress, the BJP and all the Left parties have issued the whips asking their members to be present and vote for the Bill. Some other parties would also be doing so, Mr. Bansal said.

The Samajwadi Party has let it be known that it would issue a whip asking its MPs to be present and vote against the Bill. Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav said there was no change in his party's stand. It favoured women's reservation but this must be with a sub-quota for the women of backward classes. RJD chief Lalu Prasad has also expressed himself against the Bill.

While the government was tight-lipped on how it intended to handle those opposed the Bill, it was clear it had several options. The Chair could order the marshals to take out MPs disturbing the House. This would be an extreme step. The Chair could put the bill to vote, asking the MPs to go to their seats and press the “yea' or “nay” button, and this could be done despite some MPs moving into the well. Or, the Chair could desist from pushing through a Constitution amendment in a less than peaceful and orderly atmosphere.

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