New Delhi: All opposition parties have decided to support The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Seventh Amendment) Bill 2021, also known as the ‘OBC Bill’.
Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Virendra Kumar introduced the bill in Lok Sabha Monday noon, after which the House was adjourned till 12:30pm.
This is the first time since the monsoon session commenced on 19 July that opposition parties have agreed on a discussion in Parliament, which has so far been in a logjam due to continued protests over the Pegasus row and farmers’ issue.
“This bill is in favor of the backward class. More than half the population in this country belongs to the backward classes. This is all our belief that whatever law is in favor of the poor and the backward class must be supported,” Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, told the media outside the Parliament.
“This is why all of us have come together and will try to get this bill passed as quickly as possible,” Kharge added.
The Supreme Court on 5 May had ruled that states do not have the power to identify socially and educationally backward classes (SEBC) after the 102nd amendment. The central government had then filed a review plea challenging this, but IT was dismissed by the court.
Then, on 4 August the Union cabinet cleared a Constitution amendment bill which seeks to give power to states and union territories to make their own OBC lists.
Key political issue
Notably, the opposition parties have been demanding that the government introduce a bill to restore powers of states to notify backward classes. Kharge’s announcement came minutes after leaders of 15 opposition parties — including the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Nationalist Congress Party, Aam Aadmi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal and others met in Kharge’s chambers to discuss the opposition’s strategy for the final lap of the monsoon session. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was also present.
Sources said that given the politically sensitive nature of the bill, no party wants to be seen as anti-backward class, especially given how multiple states are slated to go to polls next year.
“This is a key issue, politically as well as socially, so the bill cannot be ignored,” a Congress leader told ThePrint.
Sources also said that opposition parties might use the bill’s discussion as an opportunity to discuss the 50 per cent cap on the OBC quota as there has been a longstanding demand from many OBC outfits to remove this ceiling to benefit more OBC groups.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)