Parliament Clears Constitution Amendment Bill Introduced For General Category Reservation

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New Delhi: In the election year the Modi government has been able to do something to woo upper caste voters. A bill to introduce 10 per cent quota for poorer sections in general category has been cleared by parliament. The Rajya Sabha approved the bill on Wednesday after a marathon debate that saw most opposition parties argue that the legislation be sent to a select committee.

But when DMK’s Kanimozhi sought a vote to decide if the bill should be sent to the parliamentary committee, almost everyone voted for passage of the constitution amendment bill.

Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh said the bill had been supported by 165 of the 172 members present. Seven members voted against it. The Lok Sabha had cleared the bill yesterday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi put out a string of tweets, describing Parliament’s nod as a “tribute” to the makers of the Constitution and the country’s freedom fighters. He also called the amendment a victory of social justice.

The 10 per cent quota covers nearly 190 million people from the general category and is seen as an effort by the BJP-led national coalition to reach out to upper caste groups and once-dominant agrarian communities such as the Patidars, Jats, Gujjars and Marathas who have been lobbying for reservation.

Social Justice Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot, who had spoken minutes earlier, said the constitution amendment bill was brought with clean intentions. On Congress leaders questioning how reservation on economic criteria could be introduced under the Constitution, Gehlot wondered how the Congress had hoped to deliver on its 2014 manifesto for a quota for the poor.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the 10 per cent quota rule, once it comes into force, would apply to all central and state government jobs. He also stressed that it would not run afoul of the Supreme Court verdict capping reservations at 50 per cent, insisting that this limit was only applicable for reservations on caste lines.

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