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In a Parliament question, a hint about government’s last-minute quota plan

The NDA government has pushed the pedal to the metal over the last two days to amend the Constitution to give poorer sections a 10 per cent quota.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2019 13:18 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah speaks in the Rajya Sabha during Winter Session of Parliament in New Delhi, Wednesday, Jan. 09 2019.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah speaks in the Rajya Sabha during Winter Session of Parliament in New Delhi, Wednesday, Jan. 09 2019. (PTI file photo)
         

The NDA government has pushed the pedal to the metal over the last two days to amend the Constitution to give poorer sections a 10 per cent quota. The Congress-led opposition made its reservations clear on the government’s hurried approach during the debate in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday before it eventually voted in support of the bill.

Congress leader Ahmed Patel was brutal in his criticism right from the word go. He called the effort to amend the constitution an “election gimmick” and argued that the government hadn’t done its homework. “I am worried about its implementation,” Patel said.

But the sting came much later.

Patel pulled out a written reply by Thawar Chand Gehlot, the social justice minister who introduced the bill to introduce 10 per cent quota for poorer general category aspirants in jobs and admission to educational institutions.

In this reply tabled in the Lok Sabha minutes before the bill was taken up on Tuesday, Gehlot had asserted that the government wasn’t thinking of reserving seats for the poor candidates from the so-called forward communities.

“At present, no such proposal is under consideration,” Gehlot said in reply to a question by Telangana Rashtra Samithi lawmaker Kotha Prabhakar Reddy. The minister said, to another part of the question about requests for quotas for communities such as the Marathas, insisted that the government had received “no such proposal”.

Hindustantimes

Also read | Tribute to Constitution makers, says PM on Parliament’s nod to 10% quota

WATCH | ‘At least we dared to bring quota bill’: Ravi Shankar Prasad in Rajya Sabha

This, Ahmed Patel charged, was evidence that the Modi government’s left hand did not know what the right hand is doing.

In this case, there are suggestions that the embarrassing reply to the question reflected that the government started work on the constitution amendment bill only at the last moment. And there was no time to update the minister’s reply which had been sent out well in advance.

In his speeches in parliament over the last two days, Union minister Gehlot has acknowledged that the government did take time to bring in the bill. But he has hit back at the Congress, wondering why it never took the initiative to do the same though a panel set up during the first edition of the UPA government made the recommendation.

The Congress - despite speaking about the flaws in the bill - did not insist that the bill should go to a Select Committee for more detailed scrutiny. Eventually, the bill was passed with only 7 members from the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam and the Indian Union Muslim League voting against it. The remaining 165 of the 172 members supported the bill.

Also read | 10% quota for economically weaker sections, a muddled thinking, says Amartya Sen

Hindustantimes

First Published: Jan 10, 2019 07:36 IST

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