Further nuancing its position on reservation for economically weaker sections, the Congress leadership on Saturday decided to ask the government to have a “rethink” on the issue in Parliament.
In the Winter Session, which will begin next week, the party will also seek discussions on three issues: the border standoff with China, the economic situation and the government’s “interference” in the functioning of constitutional authorities.
The Congress had initially welcomed the Supreme Court judgement upholding 10 per cent EWS reservation in the general category. It had argued that the 103rd Constitutional Amendment, which provided a 10 per cent EWS quota, was the result of a process initiated by the Manmohan Singh government in 2005-06 with the appointment of the Sinho Commission that submitted its report in July 2010.
It tweaked its position after several leaders, especially those from Tamil Nadu, told the leadership that it should not have rushed to welcome the judgement. The party was reminded that it had been in favour of reservation for economically weaker sections of “all communities” without “affecting existing reservations for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and Other Backward Classes”.
The party then said it was “studying” the issues raised by the five judges “in detail”.
After a meeting of the Congress’s Parliamentary strategy group, AICC general secretary in-charge of communication Jairam Ramesh said the party will seek a discussion on the EWS quota in the light of the top court’s judgement and ask the government to “rethink” the issue.
The meeting was chaired by Parliamentary Party chairperson Sonia Gandhi and attended by party president and Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and senior leaders including Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and P Chidambaram.
The meeting was also attended by K C Venugopal, Manish Tewari and floor managers Manickam Tagore and Kodikunnil Suresh. Ramesh said the Congress was not opposed to EWS reservation.
“We had supported the Constitution Amendment Bill in Parliament but had raised several questions… Then the matter went to the Supreme Court. In the Supreme Court, three judges ruled in its favour but two including the Chief Justice of India had raised several questions. Our speakers had raised these same questions in Parliament… These questions are important… We are in favour of EWS reservation but for all communities… So we are not against it. But since the questions that have arisen after the Supreme Court judgement… there should be a discussion in Parliament… and there should be a rethink,” Ramesh said.
He asked why the BJP was silent on the issue of a caste census.
While the meeting at the 10, Janpath residence of Gandhi saw Kharge flagging several issues on which discussions should be sought, the party has decided to focus broadly on three topics — the continuing border standoff, the economic situation including unemployment, price rise, and the weakening of the rupee, and the government’s “interference” in the functioning of constitutional authorities including with the tension with the higher judiciary.
Ramesh alleged that the government is trying to make independent constitutional authorities like an arm of the Prime Minister’s Office. Ramesh said Kharge will reach out to other Opposition parties to arrive at a consensus on seeking discussion on these issues. While the government has listed 17 bills, the Congress said it was not in favour of passage of at least three Bills in the present form.
It will demand that the Multi-state Cooperative Societies Amendment Bill and the Forest Conservation Amendment Bill be referred to Standing Committees for Parliamentary scrutiny. While the Biological Diversity Amendment Bill has already been examined by a Joint Committee of Parliament, Ramesh said several members had given dissent notes as there were many problematic clauses. “We cannot support these bills in the present form,” he said.
Cong hints Kharge will stay Opp leader
New Delhi: Mallikarjun Kharge will continue as Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha for some more time, the Congress signalled Saturday for the first time. On September 30, Kharge had sent in his resignation after filing his nomination for the post of Congress president to the then party chief Sonia Gandhi. This was in line with the party’s ‘one person, one post’ principle, adopted at the Udaipur Chintan Shivir. The party is yet to choose a successor to Kharge, with several leaders said to be lobbying for the post of Rajya Sabha Opposition leader. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said there was no discussion on the issue at the Congress meeting on Saturday. Signalling that he will hold two positions, Ramesh said Kharge, as Congress president and in his “capacity” as LoP, will hold discussions with other Opposition parties to formulate a unified strategy for Parliament.