The Trinmool Congress, fuming over the manner in which the Women's Reservation Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, has claimed that the Congress 'cheated' their leader Mamata Banerjee over the issue.
"Till the last moment, we were kept in the dark. Congress leaders didn't show us their cards till the last moment. This is not the way to treat allies," said Minister of State for Health Dinesh Trivedi.
Narrating the behind-the-scene events of Tuesday, Trivedi says, "It's true that Mamataji was present when the Cabinet okayed the Bill. But politics is a dynamic process. We got so many representations from West Bengal against the bill that we had to respond to them and act accordingly."
When asked if the Trinmool Congress is opposing the Bill only to play the Muslim card, Trivedi said, "This bill is historic. We are not opposing it per se, but certain aspects of the Bill are unacceptable to us. Bengal has a 30 per cent Muslim population. What's wrong in conveying their concerns to the government?"
Trivedi alleged that Mamata was not taken into confidence by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or other Congress leaders who were managing the show in the Rajya Sabha.
"The Congress has walked into the trap laid by the Communist Party of India - Marxist and the Bharatiya Janata Party," he said.
Trivedi claims that on Monday, Mamta had spoken to Congress leaders, including Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal about the Bill. The leaders had promised Mamata that an all-party meet will be held to discuss the Bill before voting takes place in the Upper house, he said.
The Congress broke its promise, didn't hold any consultations with other parties and went ahead with the Bill deceptively, claims the Trinamool Congress leader.
On Monday, Mamata had put forward two demands. Firstly, she wanted the Women's Reservation Bill to be taken up in the RS only after the Lok Sabha clears the Finance bill. Secondly, she stated that under no circumstances should any of the protesting RS members be physically thrown out of the House, as it would send negative signals to the state assemblies. Some of the powerful state leaders might also adopt similar tactics in the future, feared Mamata.
"What was the hurry for the Congress on Tuesday? Women's Day was over (on March 8) and still they went ahead with the bill, under pressure from the CPI-M. Mamataji met Dr Singh on Monday. She was promised an all-party meeting. We were waiting for it. Even Pawan Bansal told us at 3 pm on Tuesday that the Congress will not use force (on RS members) but will prefer an adjournment," claimed Trivedi.
Chairman Hamid Ansari was ready to pass such a historic bill without a debate, reminded Trivedi. The Chair and the government agreed for the debate only when Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley put his foot down over the issue.
He said, "It is shame to watch 100 marshals taking out seven members from the House of Elders. On top of it, the government didn't allow those scenes to be telecast by imposing censorship. The people were kept in the dark. This is not the way Indian democracy should function."