Conducting the proceedings of the House for the first time, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh on Friday showed the rule book to the government. And the Opposition was amused.
Harivansh, who was elected Deputy Chairman on Thursday, was in the chair in the afternoon when the private members’ business was taken up. After an intense debate on a private member resolution moved by SP member Vishambhar Prasad Nishad demanding uniform reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes across the country, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot replied. He urged the member to withdraw the resolution saying “there is a process laid out by Parliament for inclusion and exclusion of caste in the list of SCs, STs and OBCs”. He said as per the procedure, the proposal for inclusion or exclusion of a caste in the list of SC and ST is to be sent by the states.
Nishad was not satisfied and demanded division. Harivansh agreed and directed that the lobbies be cleared for voting. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad pointed out that division (voting) is not taken in case of private member resolutions, and a new convention is being introduced. He said voting had taken place on private member Bills and not resolutions.
Amid a heated argument between treasury and Opposition benches, Harivansh said that rules do not allow him to take back or stop voting once it is allowed and proceeded with division. The resolution was defeated 66-32, but the Opposition quickly dubbed the government anti-Dalit because the resolution sought “amending the Constitution so that the persons belonging to SC/ST category in one state may be treated as the person of that SC/ST category all over the country to get the benefit of the reservation”.
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Prasad hit back. He said it would have been better had the Opposition, instead of opposing the triple talaq Bill, stood with the “daughters” on the issue. Nominated MP Rakesh Sinha and CPI’s D Raja were among the members who participated in the debate on the resolution. Veer Singh of BSP said people from SC/ST categories were unable to avail of benefits of reservation after migrating to another state and demanded that a caste certificate be issued to them.