Rajya Sabha on Thursday unanimously passed the Constitution (126th amendment) Bill, 2019, preceded by a brief walkout by Congress MPs and an outburst from Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad about how Opposition members, while respecting the chair, did not want to be “treated as students”.
The Bill extends for another 10 years the reservation for SC/STs in the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies, and does away with the provision for nomination of Anglo-Indians to the Lok Sabha and 14 state Assemblies. The latter clause came in for criticism from almost all MPs who spoke on the Bill except for those from the treasury benches.
Replying to the concerns of members, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad recounted the decades of oppression of SC/STs and said the government would “look into” the concerns about nomination of Anglo-Indians. He said the 10-year renewals give the government an opportunity to assess the condition of SC/STs. However, it was his repeated references to the past, including the Shah Bano case, the “long wait” for Bharat Ratna for leaders like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and B R Ambedkar and the Congress stance on the triple talaq Bill and the Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu’s refusal to let Congress MPs respond immediately that caused disgruntlement in the principal opposition party, which chose to walk out.
A constitutional amendment needs to be passed by no less than two-third majority with no less than 50% of the members of the House present and voting. The Congress has 46 members in the House and the Bill was finally passed with 163 “Ayes” in a House of 240. This means that had the Congress not been present, the Bill could not have been passed.
As Congress MPs returned to the House, Azad said: “We have respect for the chair… But chair also should show some respect. We are all senior people here, CMs, Union ministers for decades. We do not want to be treated like students. The government too should have the heart to listen to criticism, the Opposition can only talk. You have the power. You cannot compete with the Opposition…”
SP’s Ramgopal Yadav urged the government to restore the system of nomination of Anglo-Indian legislators.
Earlier, in an impassioned plea, Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien, who is from the Anglo-Indian community, said, “In 72 years, just one person from the community has been elected to Parliament, that’s me. The government can take away the nomination but you cannot take the Indian out of the Anglo-Indian.” CPM MP K K Ragesh disputed the government figure of there being just 296 Anglo-Indians in the country, saying that in Kerala alone there are 80,000 people from the community.