Missing MPs embarrass govt in RS, Oppn forces amendment in backward classes bill
The amendment seeking to increase the number of members from three to five, including a woman and a minority candidate of OBC category, was carried with 75 MPs supporting and 52 rejecting it.india Updated: Aug 01, 2017 10:57 IST
In a loss of face for the NDA government, a combative Opposition on Monday forced an amendment in a bill to accord constitutional status to the reconstituted National Commission for Backward Classes over its composition and making existing state commissions infructuous.
With MPs of many opposition parties missing, the government had an opportunity to outnumber them.
However, it was hamstrung as its own MPs were missing.
The amendment seeking to increase the number of members from three to five, including a woman and a minority candidate of OBC category, was carried with 75 MPs supporting and 52 rejecting it.
The BJP has 57 MPs in the Upper House, with the other NDA constituents taking the tally up to 75. BJP MPs were missing despite repeated warnings by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the past, including in the ongoing monsoon session. Government sources said the bill passed “as amended” took away the soul and spirit of the proposed legislation.
The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017, will now go back to the Lok Sabha.
The bill was passed as amended after some drama in the Upper House, with the government accusing the Opposition of not being in favour of reservation for backward classes.
Leader of the House Arun Jaitley said if the Opposition wanted OBC reservation to fail, so be it.
Referring to the Opposition’s demands regarding the composition of the commission, Jaitley said the element of “exclusion” in the constitution could be challenged. He said the exclusivity clause would make the bill unconstitutional.
Minister for social justice Thawar Chand Gehlot said the suggestions proposed through the amendments would be kept in mind while framing the rules. Describing the legislation as “historic”, Gehlot said the new Commission for backward classes that will be set up after the promulgation of the law will have constitutional powers as enjoyed by the SC and ST Commissions.
Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the Opposition would pay a heavy price for obstructing what the OBCs wanted for decades. He added that the Opposition’s intention was that the bill should hit legal hurdles.
Congress MP Kapil Sibal said, “You don’t want a woman OBC and a minority OBC as members…why are you opposing it?”
Congress MP BK Hariprasad, who pressed for the amendments along with fellow MPs Digvijaya Singh and Husain Dalwai, later told HT, “They are shedding crocodile tears. Their patron in Nagpur is against reservation.”
Amid the din, deputy chairperson PJ Kurien suspended the House proceedings for 10 minutes hoping that the deadlock over the amendments could be resolved.
But there was no outcome as the amendment has been passed and putting the amended clause to vote was the only way out.
CPI(M) member Sitaram Yechury said, “The die has been cast. Once amendment has been passed, then clause ‘as amended’ has to be there.