The bill to restore promotion quota for SC/STs was finally discussed in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday and is set to be passed on Monday, with all parties — except the Samajwadi Party and Shiv Sena — backing it.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, who virtually forced the government to bring the bill, however, attacked the UPA. She also said there was a conspiracy to block the bill. “The truth is bitter. We only know how we could get the bill moved.”
The day’s developments came as a relief for the government since it managed to break the stalemate on the issue that further sharpened the divide between its two supporting parties — the BSP and SP.
The government agreed to make some changes in the bill - seeking 117th amendment in the Constitution to remove the hurdles in restoring the quota — to address the concerns raised by leader of the opposition Arun Jaitley. Even after supporting the bill, Jaitley cautioned the government against one of the bill's provisions seeking to override the Constitution, which ensured: "for everybody, efficiency standards will apply".
But minister of state for personnel V Narayanasamy said the question of efficiency in administration had been thoroughly discussed and "the government is considering suggestions made by different parties".
Jaitley argued that article 335 of the Constitution made it clear that efficiency standards would apply also to the SC/STs, but in a softer form. "Now, you say nothing mentioned in this article will apply to this bill… I would urge the government to seriously reconsider this."
The SP members were so agitated that deputy chairperson of the House PJ Kurien directed two of them to leave the House for repeatedly disrupting the proceedings.
Even before Narayanasamy stood up to speak on the bill in the afternoon, SP MPs rushed to the well of the House, ignoring repeated warnings from Kurien.
Finally, SP leader Ramgopal Yadav said an "unconstitutional bill" was being imposed on the country and walked out with his colleagues.