Sonia Gandhi Meets Railway Minister On Women’s Bill

Ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi met Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday and sought an assurance that her Trinamool Congress will vote for the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha, Congress sources said.

“The meeting was cordial and the outcome was positive,” said a senior Congress leader, who was present at the meeting. Sonia Gandhi had expressed surprise at Banerjee’s last-minute objections to the bill. The Congress president said she had been told by a minister who sat next to Banerjee at the last cabinet meeting that she was very “enthusiastic” about the bill.

The Trinamool Congress, with 19 MPs in the Lok Sabha and two in the Rajya Sabha, is the largest ally of the UPA government. The party’s stand could be crucial in ensuring that the bill sails through the Lok Sabha, which is the next hurdle for the legislation to become a law. The Women’s Reservation Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha Tuesday. The bill, which seeks to set aside for women 181 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha and 1,370 of the 4,109 seats in the 28 state assemblies, is expected to be tabled in the Lok Sabha next week.

It is being opposed by parties that mainly have their support base in the Hindi heartland of northern India, but enjoys majority support from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties.

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