Main opponents are not part of government now

There is no denying the fact that the time for the Bill on women's reservation had come. But, why now after 14 years?

This question had one answer from MPs cutting across different parties. This is how they explained: When in 1996 the United Front government headed by H.D. Deve Gowda first tried to bring the Women's Reservation Bill in Parliament, it faced stiff opposition from within – Lalu Prasad's party the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Mulayam Singh of the Samajwadi Party were part of the government. Their opposition was fierce and it has remained so for 14 years as it could be seen even on Tuesday in the Rajya Sabha.

In 1998, and again in 1999, it was the turn of the Vajpayee governments to try and steer the bill through the Lok Sabha. Again, unruly scenes made it impossible for the government, which could not muster the political will since the Janata Dal (United) and the Lok Jan Shakti, both opposing the bill, were coalition partners. The government simply could not afford to go ahead with the legislation at the cost of its own coalition alliance breaking up.

The United Progressive Alliance in its first regime also faced internal opposition. This time it was Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal which was a coalition partner. The result was pre-ordained. The Bill could not be passed.

However, UPA I worked out a different strategy from that adopted by the United Front and the NDA. It introduced the bill in the Rajya Sabha, instead of the Lok Sabha, ensuring that it would not lapse with the end of tenure of the fourteenth Lok Sabha. It also figured that when the time came it would be easier to get it passed in this House than the Lok Sabha since it was numerically smaller.

In the fifteenth Lok Sabha none of the three main opponents of the Bill – Lalu Prasad, Mulayam Singh and Sharad Yadav – are part of the government. The time was ripe for UPA II to take the plunge.

Readers' Editor clarifies:

The second paragraph of this analysis was “When in 1996 the United Front government headed by H.D. Deve Gowda first tried to bring the Women's Reservation Bill in Parliament, it faced stiff opposition from within - Lalu Prasad's party the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Mulayam Singh of the Samajwadi Party were part of the government. Their opposition was fierce and it has remained so for 14 years as it could be seen even on Tuesday in the Rajya Sabha.” In response to a reader's query, the writer clarifies that though Lalu Prasad Yadav formed the RJD after 1996, the point of the story was that his followers were part of the government.

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