Neena Vyas

Women's Reservation Bill to be considered in the Rajya Sabha on March 8

NEW DELHI: Opposition parties, it would seem, have realised that disrupting Parliament on a daily basis is politically counterproductive. With this in mind, a new strategy has been hammered out which takes on board the views of the Opposition from the right and the left.

And the government it seems is actively thinking of bringing the Women's Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha for consideration and passing on March 8, International Women's Day, to not only fulfil its election promise but also to make a dent in Opposition unity.

Keeping in mind the Bharatiya Janata Party's own experience immediately after its 2004 Lok Sabha defeat when it disrupted Parliament from day one of the 14th Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, the Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha respectively, held that indefinite disruption would send the wrong message and give the government an opportunity to say that the Opposition was running away from a structured debate on various issues.

The strategy formulated was: “some disruption and some debate,” as Mr. Jaitley put it. He also added that the Opposition unity witnessed on the price issue was important.

On Tuesday, a day ahead of the scheduled meeting of National Democratic Alliance floor leaders, Ms. Swaraj contacted Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) and Basudev Acharia (CPI-M) and was told that they were not in favour of disruption beyond noon.

With this in mind, when the NDA floor leaders' meeting was called, both Ms. Swaraj and Mr. Jaitley told their alliance partners that they should allow Parliament to function after making their point by stalling Question Hour.

This view was conveyed by her when she met the Speaker Meira Kumar in her chamber where she had followed Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal. At that meeting, Ms. Swaraj apparently hinted at allowing the House to run after 12 noon, but in fact it was disrupted once again.

It seems Ms. Swaraj later conferred with Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh, who favoured more disruptions to more effectively make the point against price rise. To balance the different views and maintain Opposition unity, it was then agreed to disrupt Parliament once again at 12 noon, but allow the House to function from 2 p.m.

“Against norms”

Mr. Bansal later told journalists that he was surprised at the Opposition demanding suspension of Question Hour when no one had given notice for this. This was against all parliamentary norms and procedures.

He also said the government wanted to bring the Women's Reservation Bill for consideration and passing before the Rajya Sabha on Women's Day.

Parliamentary sources indicated that a meeting of the chief whips of the United Progressive Alliance was called by Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee, after which Congress leaders were confident that whatever their reservations, all UPA allies would vote with the government if the Opposition were to bring a cut motion as threatened.

The good news in this wrangle between the government and the Opposition is that Ms. Swaraj has said her party does not intend to disrupt Parliament from Thursday, but would make its points effectively through debate.

“We can put the government on the mat during the debate on the motion of thanks to the President [that began on Wednesday] and the debate on the general budget later.”