The Govt on Thursday steered itself safe from a pre-poll controversy by dumping a move inspired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year to end quotas for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in faculties of top management and technology institutes.
The Congress-led coalition dropped the controversial provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Reservation Posts and Services) Bill — the Rajya Sabha had passed it last year without a discussion — after fears that it would give the opposition a handle to beat the coalition with.
Dalit leaders like Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati had already signaled their intent to make it a poll issue and put it out as evidence of Congress’ “anti-Dalit” bias.
The government had decided to make amendments to the Bill, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi said in the Lok Sabha when members protested the “injustice”.
Once the Lok Sabha clears the amended version, it will have to be sent back to the Rajya Sabha for approval. The Bill — aimed at providing statutory backing to SC/ST quotas in government jobs — had slipped in a clause that barred quotas for faculty in 47 institutes and universities of national importance like the IITs, IIMs, AIIMS besides all scientific and technical posts.
But the decision to kill the controversial portion triggered a race for credit.
Within hours, Lok Janshakti Party chief Ramvilas Paswan — who also worked back channels to get the government to drop the move — took jibes at the Bahujan Samaj Party for its protests, saying it was a “political drama”.
Paswan accused BSP chief Mayawati of trying to “steal credit” for the government’s reversal by getting her MPs to lead the protests in Parliament.
It was the same set of BSP MPs who boycotted recent meetings of the parliamentary forum of SC/ST members that had actually convinced ministers like Pranab Mukherjee and Prithviraj Chavan to make the amendments, Paswan said.
Having defended the government, Paswan mounted a counter-offensive on the BSP, questioning the record of its government in UP. He reminded the CM that UP topped the states for atrocities against Dalits. “Mayawati should come out with a white paper providing details of appointments of SC/ST officers to top posts in UP,” he said.