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Centre to revive bill giving more power to OBC commission

The move will make the NCBC a constitutional body with full powers to safeguard the rights and interests of OBCs.

india Updated: Nov 23, 2017 23:24 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
National Commission for Backward Classes,Lok Sabha,NCBC
The government will reintroduce the bill in the Lok Sabha in the forthcoming winter session.(File Photo)

The central government will reintroduce in Parliament a bill to give constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC), a move seen by opposition leaders as an attempt by the BJP to woo OBC voters in poll-bound Gujarat.

The bill on the NCBC is likely to be placed in the winter session, about four months after opposition parties returned it to the Lok Sabha by forcing amendments in the Upper House.

The bill aims to empower the NCBC to hear complaints of other backward classes (OBCs) and safeguard their rights. As things stand, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes hears complaints of both SCs and OBCs.

The winter session is likely to start from December 15, a day after the last phase of polling in Gujarat, where the Congress has been aggressively wooing OBCs, a constituency that had long supported the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state.

Influential OBC leader Alpesh Thakor recently joined the Congress and figures in the list of star campaigners of the party in Gujarat. A section of the Patidar community, once a unified vote base of the BJP, has also decided to back the Congress in the polls. The Patidars, led by Hardik Patel, are agitating for quotas in government jobs and educational institutes.

Opposition parties were quick to criticise the timing of the NDA government’s move.

“These are all posturing for Gujarat polls. They have nothing to do with governance. These are all parts of electoral manipulation,” said CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.

Congress spokesperson, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, was equally critical. “The government has scant regard for constitutional terms and established procedures,” Singhvi said. “They are impudent and insulting towards constitutional principles, which they see as obstructions.”

After the Lok Sabha passed the Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill last July, the Congress, the Left and other parties forced amendments to it, including an increase in the number of members from three to five by adding a woman and a minority community member in the commission. The government had rejected the demand on the ground that bringing in members from other communities would not stand judicial scrutiny.

The Opposition also added a provision that recommendations of states for inclusion of certain communities in the Central OBC list would be binding.

Sources said that the government would try its best to accommodate these demands while framing the rules.

Official sources said that it was yet to be decided whether the amended bill would be brought for consideration of the Lok Sabha or there would be a fresh bill.

The ruling combine’s majority in the Lok Sabha could ensure negation of the amendments as passed by the Rajya Sabha in the last monsoon session.

In case the amendments or a part of them are negated in the Lower House, the bill will go back to the Rajya Sabha for its approval.

Although the NDA is in a minority in the Upper House, the ruling dispensation hopes to get the requisite numbers for the bill’s passage from parties such as the BJD and the AIADMK, among others. NDA strategists believe that many opposition parties might reconsider their position on the bill that is envisaged to empower OBCs.

“The government is fully committed to ensure equity and social justice to OBCs and has, therefore, decided to take up the bill in the forthcoming Parliament session,” said an official source.

First Published: Nov 23, 2017 14:18 IST