Women's Bill traded for UPA's survival? Yadavs call the shots

New Delhi: 
Despite the fact that the Rajya Sabha gave a thumbs up to the Women's Reservation Bill, the government decided against introducing it in the Lok Sabha in the Budget Session that concluded on Friday.

It now says the bill will have to wait for the Monsoon Session.

Has Sonia Gandhi's 'trophy legislation' been traded for UPA's survival?  

"There couldn't be any talks on the Women's Reservation Bill as Parliament was focussing primarily on the Budget," said Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Pawan Kumar Bansal.

The bill provides for one-third reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and Assemblies but some parties like Samajwadi Party (SP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and a section of Janata Dal United (JD(U)) are opposed to it in the present form as they are seeking a quota within quota for women from backward sections.

Within one Parliamentary session, the quota bill travelled from hope to despair. In early March, the Opposition was united on prices. The government moved the bill to divide the Opposition. The BJP, Left and the Congress passed the Bill but the Yadavs (SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav) went on the warpath.

But on April 27 when the government faced the Cut Motion, the Yadavs supported the government. The Cut Motions were defeated the government won. Probably this is why the Women's Reservation Bill never came up in the Lok Sabha during the Budget session.

"Whatever happened over the Cut Motion in the Parliament, women's bill was sacrificed in the process," said Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj.

Pushing the quota bill out of sight improved the Congress bonhomie with the Yadavs. On Friday, Lalu and Mulayam dropped opposition to the Nuclear Liability Bill. And the government accepted their demand for a caste census, the first in Independent India.

Things may not change in the Monsoon Session too. To get the Yadavs to say yes to other bills, the UPA needs to keep saying no to the quota bill.

The Yadavs have controlled the fate of the bill since 1996. And they seem to be back in the driver's seat once again.

The Budget Session has exposed the fragility of the UPA arithmetic, wherein compromise has become compulsory. In such a scenario, seems like shelving the women's bill was the minimum support price the government paid for survival.

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