Facing stiff opposition from regional parties such as the Samajwadi Party (SP) over the tabling of a bill in Parliament for reservation in promotions for scheduled castes and tribes, the government is looking to pacify its opponents and create a consensus.
The SP made it clear on Monday that it would oppose the government to the extent of preventing the bill from being tabled.
"We will oppose the bill and try to prevent it from being tabled. We will say in the committee meeting that contentious issues should be cast aside, so that Parliament can function. Why should the government's stubbornness disrupt Parliament? There are many matters affecting the country that should be discussed, but to forcibly divide society by compromising the rights of many for the sake of a few is not in national interest," said SP lawmaker Naresh Agarwal.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said that he would attempt to pacify the SP. He also dismissed allegations that the Bill was being tabled in order to pacify Bhaujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, one of the country's most prominent leaders from the marginalized 'Dalit' community, who has agreed to support the federal government on the issue of foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail.
"This matter came up in the previous session, so what is this deal that is being talked about. It was presented in the upper House, and debate began. So, this is current business, not anything new."
The Janata Dal-United (JD-U), in power in Bihar, said that it had brought such a policy into force already.
"The JD-U's stand is clear. Before this question was even raised by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), we have implemented reservations in promotion for scheduled castes and tribes in Bihar," said JD-U lawmaker Ali Anwar Ansari.
India's ruling Congress party said that while it considered that reservation in promotions was essential for the benefit of the downtrodden sections of society, the Bill tabled by it would insist that reservations given should not be more than a certain section's proportion in the country's population.
"The scheduled castes and tribes still face persecution, and suffer as a result of economic and social inequality. Reservation is necessary to overcome this inequality. However, at no cost will reservations be given in excess of their proportion in the country's population. The new proposed law makes this clear. So, nobody should have a problem with this," said Congress leader P. L. Punia.
Taking a different line from its open criticism of the government on most issues, India's main opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has taken a cautious approach to the matter.
"Everyone in this country has a constitutional and democratic right to be part of the mainstream of progress. As far as the apex court judgment and the government's Bill is concerned, it needs to be seen what kind of document is presented on the floor of Parliament. After that, the party will make its stance clear," said BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
The move comes after the Supreme Court in April struck down former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati's policy of a promotion quota in government service.
Reservation in jobs and educational institutions for the underprivileged in a country where the caste system reduced millions to the status of untouchables for centuries is much needed. Almost all opposition to reservation comes from the so-called higher castes who believe it isn't fair to them. (ANI)