After the Constitution amendment Bill to allow a quota for people from Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in promotions in government jobs was cleared by the Union Cabinet on Tuesday, the government is set to introduce it in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
The government has already made four Constitutional amendments to protect the interests of the backward classes, including SCs and STs, but the validity of all these four were challenged in the Supreme Court through writ petitions on the ground that these altered the basic structure of the Constitution.
The issue had come to light after reservation provisions for SC/ST in government jobs in Uttar Pradesh were struck down by the Supreme Court. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had called an all-party meeting on August 21 and sought suggestions from all political parties for a ‘legally sustainable solution’ to the proposal. While talking to senior leaders of all political parties, the prime minister had said the Supreme Court had in 2006 upheld the validity of all these four amendments, but the apex court had stipulated that the states concerned would have to show in each case the existence of the compelling reasons — backwardness, inadequacy of representation and overall administrative efficiency — before making provisions for reservation.
Even as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has cleared it and is expected to present the Bill in Parliament on Wednesday, its own ally, the Samajwadi Party, is not in favour of the move. The main Opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is also non-committal on the issue.
Interestingly, while the PM tried to garner support at the all-party meet, now it is Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati who has taken it upon herself to talk to the political leadership across party lines to seek their support. The Union government would need at least a two-third majority in each House of Parliament to get the Bill passed and the support of the BJP would be crucial for the smooth passage of the Bill.
During her meeting with Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, respectively, she was told the BJP would take a call on the issue after consulting other party members. “Given the current situation in Parliament, I do not think this Bill will be passed during this session. I would appeal to and request BJP and its allies to help pass the Bill,” Mayawati said while talking to reporters.