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Tuesday, 21 December, 1999, 14:58 GMT
Vajpayee tries to defuse quota row

Protest clash A protest demanding reservations for minority and backward caste women


By Jyotsna Singh in Delhi

The Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, has convened a meeting of opposition parties in a bid to get a consensus on the controversial issue of reserving a third of seats in parliament for women.

The Parliamentary Affairs, Minister Pramod Mahajan, told the lower house (Lok Sabha), that an all-party meeting would be held on Wednesday to try to reach a common agreement over the introduction of the women's bill.

Mr Mahajan stressed that the government was committed to reserving a third of seats for women and that it wanted to create a wide consensus on the issue.

Earlier in the day, members of some socialist parties disrupted parliamentary proceedings demanding separate quotas for lower-caste Hindu women and women from religious minorities.

The main opposition Congress party wants the bill to be introduced as soon as possible.

A senior Congress leader, Madhav Rao Scindia, told parliament that although the Congress supports a consensus, it wants the bill to be introduced at the earliest possible opportunity.

On Monday, Congress and left-wings MPs walked out of the parliament when they failed to get the government to commit to a date to introduce the controversial Bill.

This is not the first time that the prime minister has convened an all-party meeting to get a consensus over the women's quota issue.

Such attempts have been made several times in the past ever since the bill was first mooted three years ago.

Analysts say that although the government is very keen to introduce the bill during the current session to show that it is seriousness about implementing one of its main election promises, it is unlikely to be passed soon as various political parties remain opposed to it in its current form.

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See also:
20 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Women's quota row prompts walkout
11 Nov 99 |  South Asia
India introduces women's bill
02 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Indian insurance bill passed
22 Oct 99 |  South Asia
Analysis: Upping the pace of reform
29 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Stormy start for Indian parliament

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