GR News Desk | New Delhi
Within 48 hours of being cleared by prime minister Narendra Modi-led Cabinet, the Rajya Sabha Wednesday passed the Constitution (124th amendment) Bill, 2019 to make way for 10 per cent reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) of the General Category in government jobs and education. The bill was passed after it was supported by 149 members, while opposed by 7 members.
The bill had initially been cleared in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday after 323 members voted in favour while just 3 MPs opposed it. While the Lok Sabha was adjourned Sine Die after the passing of the bill, the government had extended the functioning of the Upper House by a day to get the bill cleared and to be made into an ordinance. The prime minister Narendra Modi-led Cabinet had cleared the proposal to provide for 10 per cent reservation over and above the 50 per cent cap set by the Supreme Court on Monday.
The government is amending the clauses under Article 15, 16 to provide reservation to EWS of General category in employment and education. Defending the bill in the Upper House, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad maintained that the new bill will not disturb the existing 50 per cent reservation being provided to SC/ST/OBCs.
While the Congress has supported the government on the Bill in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha making way for its passage. It has questioned the timing of the Bill with less than 100 days before the Parliamentary elections. Putting the Congress views in the house, senior leader Kapil Sibal said, “The Mandal Commission provision of 10% reservation for the economically weaker category was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. If a nine-judge bench held it unconstitutional, how can you amend the constitution?” “The government said that 10% reservation will be given to the economically poor among the general category. But did they collect any data to ascertain the percentage of OBCs and Dalits in different states?” he added.
Opposition parties including the DMK and TMC which also extended support demanded the bill be sent to the Select Committee of the Parliament before being cleared. The parties have alleged that the bill was introduced in a sudden manner and therefore should be sent to the committee. Congress also added that the bill was brought in haste taking note of the model code of conduct which will come into force and accused the government of not taking the Opposition into confidence.
Responding to the clarifications and issues raised by the opposition, Social Justice Minister Thanwar Chand Gehlot said that the reservation will provide new and better opportunities for poor people of the country. “The Bill has been brought by PM Modi with a good and honest intention.” Attacking the Congress, Gehlot questioned their opposition when they themselves had made promises for the same in their 2014 election manifesto.
The decision to provide for the reservation over and above the set mark of 50 per cent to upper class is being seen as a move to please the General Category which failed to connect to the BJP led government in the recently held five state assembly election. The move is being seen by as a masterstroke to bring back the upper class within the BJP fold ahead of the Lok Sabha elections to be held later this year.