LS passes key bill to restore states’ power to make their own OBC lists

The Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill, 2021 was passed on Tuesday evening in the Lok Sabha with the overwhelming support of all parties through 385 Ayes and zero Noes — ensuring a two-thirds majority mandatory for passing an amendment of the Constitution.

This Bill, which will now be presented in Rajya Sabha, restores the states’ powers to make their own OBC lists by identifying and notifying socially and economically backward classes (SEBCs) for the grant of quota in jobs and admissions.

Over 40 members participated in the debate during a session that has seen little legislative business amid the Opposition’s repeated demands for a debate on the Pegasus spyware controversy.

Several Opposition members demanded a caste-based census and removal of the 50 per cent quota ceiling as the Bill came up for discussion, pointing to the Maratha quota earlier announced in Maharashtra.

Moving the Bill for discussion, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Virendra Kumar said that it was a “historic day”.

Later, while responding to Congress’s allegations that the Bill was brought in only to garner votes, the minister said, “I want to assure everyone that the BJP’s intentions are sincere. When 102nd amendment had been brought in…Congress had supported… You (the Congress) don’t have the right to raise questions on this…this is Congress’ double standards.’’ He said that the Maratha quota was “now a state issue”, and added the “government is also of the view that the 50 percent ceiling should be discussed” but this would require judicial scrutiny since the Supreme Court stood by the limit.

Raising the Pegasus spyware controversy, Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the party supported the Bill but added “the 50 per cent ceiling, imposed by the Supreme Court after the Indra Sawhney case, should be removed.”

Hitting back at the Opposition party while voicing support for a caste census, BJP MP Dr Sanghamitra Maurya said, “What their government could not do, our government is going to do today. By conducting a census, it is providing rights to OBCs…You were in power for a long time. Every state counted even animals but nowhere the backwards were counted. This happened during your rule…In 2011, your government conducted a census. Why did you not publish that (caste data) then.”

However, Supriya Sule of NCP sought a clarification from BJP’s Maurya’s over her claims about the 2011 census data. “The lady who spoke first said that she will be sharing information. She was the first member to speak from the BJP. So, I am presuming that BJP will give that empirical data.”

TMC MPs Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Kalyan Banerjee supported the Bill but asked the government why it was “afraid” of discussing the Pegasus issue.

Lok Jan Shakti Party MP Prince Raj said the legislation will pave the way for reservation for Jats in Haryana, Marathas in Maharashtra, Lingayats in Karnataka and Patels in Gujarat.

Ritesh Pandey of BSP also raised the issue of caste-based census and said that members of OBC community have been kept deprived.

SAD MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal demanded a discussion on farmers who died due to “the black farm laws”, but she welcomed the Bill.

SP MP Akhilesh Yadav demanded relaxation in the 50 per cent quota cap. “You are building central vista for your convenience but you are messing with the reservation that was the original intent of the Mandal commission.”

Union Environment Minister Bhupender Singh Yadav criticised the Congress for opposing the Mandal Commission and said it had demanded quota for minorities in the backward classes.

BJP MP Ganesh Singh said, “Today, Narendra Modi-ji has become the second Ambedkar by giving complete social justice to the poor and backwards.”

MoS for Commerce and Industry and Apna Dal MP Anupriya Patel said the concept of social justice will remain incomplete till “backward and oppressed castes don’t get proportional representation in all pillars of the democracy”. “For this it is necessary that other backward castes should be identified and counted. Who can do this work other than the state government.”

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