After a long time, the parliament is witnessing some political give and take, and the controversial constitutional amendment bill to provide for reservations in promotions for SC/STs government employees looks all set to get the Rajya Sabha’s approval.
The discussion on the bill began on Thursday, and it is expected that the vote shall take place on Monday, and the bill is expected to have a smooth passage with bipartisan support and the opposition being confined to the SP, and Shiv Sena.
But this sense of normalcy came after high drama. The Samajwadi Party that has been opposing the amendment bill tooth and nail persisted with its protests in the House, even after two of its members were named and asked to withdraw from the House.
When Union parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath urged the deputy chairman PJ Kurien to suspend all the nine SP members, there was an angry reaction from their leader Ramgopal Yadav who staged a walk-out with all the party members.
But he later stressed that this walk-out would not lead to the SP’s decision to withdraw its support to the government. “This has nothing to do with our relationship with the UPA-2,” he told reporters.
Apart from this ‘settlement’ with the SP, the UPA floor managers also achieved an understanding with the main opposition-the BJP, and two amendments actually suggested by the leader of opposition Arun Jaitley were later moved by the government.
Even as he supported the concept of reservations in principle, Jaitley pointed out that the provisions in the bill regarding ‘no merit criteria’ that in practice would do away with the relevance of ‘annual confidential reports’ needs to be amended.’ There could be a relaxation in the standards, but these cannot be done away altogether,” he said.
Union minister of state parliamentary affairs Rajeev Shukla later said that this suggestion had been accepted, and there is an additional proviso that the quota shall be restricted to a cap of 22.5 percent (15% for SCs, and 7.5% for STs). “ This is as per the original provision in the constitution for reservations,” he informed.
Participating in the debate, the CPI member D Raja said it is a misconception to state that the constitution is being amended to provide for reservations in promotions. “This has been there right from the beginning. Even the Supreme Court has upheld this in principle. This bill is being brought in to remedy some of the shortcomings that have been pointed out by the court,” he said.
The Supreme Court had pointed out that there is no empirical data to demonstrate that injustice had been done to the SCs/STs in the matter of promotions,and its absence it had quashed the decisions of the Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan governments. In order to remedy this situation, the government has brought in this legislation.