Chaos erupted in the Upper House moments after the government tabled the Constitution Amendment Bill to give 10% quota to ‘economically weaker’ upper castes. The Left has demanded that the bill, which seeks to provide 10% reservation to the be sent to the Select Committee first before being taken up for discussion in the Rajya Sabha. The government will today also table the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Upper House where proceedings will wrap up today.
The quota bill and Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. After a debate that continued for over four and half hours, 323 Lok Sabha members voted in support of the quota bill and only three voted against it, underlining the cross-party support given political significance of the proposed legislation.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as also Congress president Rahul Gandhi were present when the voting took place. In a series of tweets, Modi later thanked MPs from all parties for supporting the bill and called it a “landmark moment” that would ensure every poor person, irrespective of caste and creed, to get a life of dignity and access to all possible opportunities.
Being a constitutional amendment bill, it will require presence of at least half of the members even in the upper house and support from two-third of them.
Replying to the debate, Social Justice Minister Thaavarchand Gehlot sought to allay doubts raised by opposition members about the legislation’s fate if it is challenged in the Supreme Court, asserting he can say with confidence that the apex court will accept it.
The Modi government’s policy and intention is good and that is why it has enabled the reservation for the poor in the general category, he said, seeking support of all parties for the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill 2019.
“Your doubts are unfounded. Put them to rest,” he told the opposition members, many of whom dubbed the bill as “jumla” (rhetoric) and “gimmick”, questioned its legal standing and accused the government of bringing it in haste with an eye on the Lok Sabha polls, which are expected in a few months.
Gehlot said the bill was in line with Prime Minister Modi’s assertion at the time of assuming power in 2014 that his government would be devoted to the cause of the poor and work for “sabka saath sabka vikas” (with all, development for all).
“This is an historic decision and in the interest of the country,” he said. The proposed quota would be over and above the 50 per cent reservation already available to SC/ST and Other Backward Castes.
The major castes to benefit from the proposed law are Brahmins, Rajputs (Thakurs), Jats, Marathas, Bhumihars, several trading castes, Kapus and Kammas among other upper castes.