Saturday, March 6, 2010

Support for women's quota bill grows

NEW DELHI: After 13 years in hibernation, the prospects of passage of the controversial womens reservation bill on Saturday brightened with sharp divisions coming to the fore among one of the main the opponents of the measure--JD (U--as Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar declared his support.

DMK, National Conference and Akali Dal, together accounting for nine MPs in Rajya Sabha, today also pledged their backing to the Constitution amendment bill, which has been put up in the business schedule of the Upper House on Monday, placing the government in a comfortable position in the game of numbers.

Kumars support came as a bolt from the blue for his party chief Sharad Yadav, a strong opponent of the bill since 1997 when it was first introduced, who said the party was still opposed to it. JD-U has seven MPs in Rajya Sabha and 20 in the Lok Sabha.

As it is a Constitution amendment bill, its passage requires a special majority of two-third backing of at least 155 members in a House 245 with an effective strength of 233.

The government has the clear support of 138 members of Congress, BJP and Left parties besides that of a number of small parties, which takes the backing to more than 165.

Kumar, who had given a dissent note opposing the Bill in the mid-nineties, today said the time has now given for passage of the bill and it would not be good to block it.

"When I was a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee, I had given a dissent note (more than a decade ago). Now the time has come to give women reservation in Parliament and State Assemblies. I will talk to Sharadji and appeal to him to ensure passage of the bill,\" told reporters in Patna. 

Kumar said that it would be good if the government accepts the demand for introducing quota within quota but it would not be appropriate to block the bill on the issue.

"Ideally, women of extremely backward and backward castes should be provided reservation in both Parliament and Assembly. We will keep our efforts on for getting it,\" he added.

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