Protest or support? Opposition in a fix over amended OBC bill
- The government is likely to bring the OBC amendment bill this week
- The bill seeks to restore the power of the states to draw up their own beneficiary list
- The Supreme Court had in May taken away the power from states to draw up these lists
The government's decision to introduce the amended OBC Bill, restoring powers of states and Union Territories to draw up their own OBC lists, has put the Opposition in a fix. They will now have to either halt their Pegasus protest in Parliament to debate and pass the bill or stall it and be branded 'anti-OBC'. The OBCs constitute about 41% of India's population.
Lobbing the ball into the Opposition court, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi told ET, "I appeal to the entire Opposition parties to extend their cooperation by forgetting the past differences... it involves the larger cause of OBC reservation and welfare." A Constitution Amendment Bill has to be passed by each House of Parliament by not less than two-thirds of the members of the House 'present and voting' and the House has to be in order,
So far, the monsoon session of Parliament, which started on July 19, has witnessed unruly scenes and slogan-shouting, members trooping to the well of the House and frequent adjournments. Their demand: Home Minister Amit Shah must make a statement on the alleged spying on prominent politicians and public figures. A statement by I&B minister is all that the government has offered.
Joshi's statement has pushed the Opposition into a corner and are reportedly looking at pausing their protest to pass the politically-sensitive Bill. According to reports, a give-and-take may be agreed upon where a government statement in Parliament will pave the way for the smooth passage of the bill. "The Congress, in principle, supports the OBS reservation... It is the responsibility of the government to reach out to the Opposition, discuss and ensure order in the House when the Bill is taken up," Congress's Lok Sabha leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury told ET.
A Supreme Court order of May had taken away the power from state government's to draw up their own OBC lists, saying that a 2018 law had empowered only the Centre to draw such lists.
This had drawn strong Opposition from states and political parties, who said that each state had different caste-community combinations and a generic central list will not meet the purpose of OBC empowerment.
The government then brought an amended bill, which nullifies the Supreme Court's decision. The bill seeks to amend Clause 1 and 2 of Article 342 A of the Constitution by inserting a new clause called 342 A (3) that will authorise states to maintain their own lists. In effect, the amendment nullifies the Supreme Court order.