Amid the uproar in the parliament, the opposition was left red-faced on Wednesday in the Rajya Sabha after an amendment moved by one of the parties to the President’s Address was defeated 86-57. This is not the first time that the opposition has embarrassed the government by passing amendments to the President’s Address. It has happened twice in the past three years.
The Motion of Thanks for the President’s address was passed by a voice vote in the Upper House after the Prime Minister’s reply to the debate. The amendment, proposed by T K Rangarajan of CPI(M), was negated by division with 57 members in favour and 86 against. The amendment sought inclusion of the phrase: “but regret that there is no mention in the Address about the Government’s failure to pass Women Reservation Bill.”
The result of division evoked sharp response from the former union minister and Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury saying “You are all anti-women. Thank You.” Congress and other opposition members also supported Chowdhury saying “Sharam Karo, Sharam Karo” (shame, shame). Reacting to this, Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Zubin Irani said “You have no right to say that.” The women’s bill was passed during the UPA rule in Rajya Sabha in March 2010, but could not be passed in Lok Sabha.
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said,”We passed this bill in this House. But some coalition members did not agree on the bill (in the Lower House).” Responding on the division pressed by Rangarajan, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said “We will try to call a meeting of all political parties.” But Rangarajan pressed for a division, saying “Only after pressing for division, the government says they agree to discuss the bill. I am pressing for it now.” Thereafter, another related amendment 245 by CPI leader D Raja provided for including “regret that the address does not mention about the delay in passing the legislation on reservation for women in Parliament and state assemblies.” It was also put to vote and rejected by a voice vote.
The cracks in opposition were exposed when SP member Naresh Agrawal said there was no need for a vote since the House has already passed the women’s reservation Bill. Henceforth, the Congress, whose government had passed the women’s recervation Bill in Rajya Sabha, had to vote with the Left members despite knowing that the Opposition benches were not in full strength.