Hailing the “historic” Constitution Amendment Bill for 10-per cent quota for the poor among upper caste communities, BJP members in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday said that it signals the NDA government’s commitment to “sabka saath sabka vikaas (inclusive growth)”.
Anil Desai, of NDA ally Shiv Sena, wondered how much this Bill will really help the youth given the job losses after demonetisation and implementation of GST. Desai’s concern for jobs lost found echo in the words of another BJP ally – SAD’s Naresh Gujral.
Answering the Opposition’s queries about Constitutional tenability of the Bill with reference to the fact that it was a manifesto promise of the Congress, speakers from the treasury benches took the battle to the Opposition camp. Social Justice Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot asked: “I want to ask (Congress member) Anand Sharma and his party what modus operandi you would have adopted had you been required to fulfill your manifesto promise on quota for upper caste poor. This is the only way…you have been forced to support this Bill.”
Gehlot was cut short by Sharma, who asked whether it is the government’s compulsion to bring the Bill or the Opposition’s compulsion to support it.
Trying to counter the jibe that the government is anti-women, as it did not push the long-pending women’s reservation Bill, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad cited data on how many toilets had been built, that the Narendra Modi government opened up Air Force combat positions for women, and the fact that both the Foreign Minister and Defence Minister are women.
“It is intriguing that everybody is supporting the Bill, but is (also) saying a ‘but’. This is a historic Bill because all of us have seen how upper caste poor are forced to work as labourers. Anyone who hasn’t (seen that) should go out more,” Prasad said.
Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan said Congress leaders are having “stomach ache” at the sight of the son of a backward caste family talk about the upper castes. Paswan’s intervention was followed by jibes from Opposition MPs, including Congress’s Kumari Selja and BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra, who asked him about the status of reservation in promotions.
BJP MP Rakesh Sinha called the Bill the “first religion-neutral law in Indian history”.