Huge victory for women in Rajya Sabha

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 10 2010, 05:54am hrs
The UPA took a calculated risk and pushed ahead with the Womens Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday with the help of major opposition parties, and yet, annoying some of its important alliance partners.

The Bill to provide 33% reservation of seats in Parliament and state legislatures to women was, thus, passed with an overwhelming majority in the Upper House. The manner in which the Bill was passed appears to have caused new fissures within the UPA alliance and could cause some hiccups for key economic legislations and the general discussion and passage of vote on accounts on the Budget.

Timed to coincide with the International Womens Day, the Rajya Sabha passed the Bill after a day-long debate, with both the BJP and the left parties supporting the legislation.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi said she did not expect any problem in handling the rest of the legislative agenda for the session. I cannot see any issue coming in the way. I dont see a problem (on floor coordination). The Bill was supported by 186 members with one opposing it, after the Vice-President called for a division.

The Bill, which has been in the works for 14 years, will now travel to the Lok Sabha. It will have to be ratified by 50% of the state legislatures before the President signs it.

Reacting to her allies like Trinamool Congress, which claimed the Bill was being passed in a hurry, Gandhi said all the parties in the UPA had welcomed the measure when it was brought to the Cabinet and she saw no problems within the ruling UPA now. Mamata Banerjee was quite enthusiastic. DMK has been for the Bill and supported the Prime Minister fully. (Sharad) Pawar also fully supported it. Everyone has supported it. I don't see any problems within the UPA.

However, the Rajya Sabhja could debate the Bill only after seven members of the house were suspended and marshalled out of the chamber. Of these, four are from the Samajwadi Party, one each from RJD and LJP and one was unattached.

In the 245-member house with an effective strength of 233, the passage of the Bill required support of at least 155 members. The constitutional amendment Bill seeks to reserve 181 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha for women. In the state legislatures, out of the total 4,109 seats available 1,370 seats will be reserved for women.