The government on Friday was caught in an embarrassing position as the entire Opposition backed YSR Congress MP Vijaya Sai Reddy’s private member’s bill seeking reservations for the Other Backward Classes in the Rajya Sabha and the Assemblies on the lines of the reservations available for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
Mr. Reddy’s bill — The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2018 (insertion of new articles 330A and 332 A) — was introduced on June 21 and the debate concluded on July 12.
In reply to the debate, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said without any reservation the country had seen many OBC leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Why do you want to box such great names under reservation,” he said.
The government was stumped when on conclusion of the debate, Mr. Reddy sought a voting with the Congress and other Opposition parties backing his call.
“My party YSR (Congress) has been supporting the uplift of the minority and the Backward Classes. In fact in our State Cabinet 65% of the ministerial berths have gone to the SCs, the STs and the OBCs. This is just in proportion to their population,” Mr. Reddy said. He refused to withdraw the bill despite repeated requests from the chair.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad intervened to point out that the bill could not be put to vote since it required a constitutional amendment that the Rajya Sabha alone can’t vote on.
To this Mr. Reddy said the objection should have been raised at the time of tabling the bill and not after the debate had been concluded. All the Opposition parties enthusiastically backed his call for vote assuring him of support putting the BJP in a spot. There was a thin attendance in the House since most members had left post lunch and had the bill been put for vote it was possible that it could have been cleared.
Cheering Mr. Reddy on, many Opposition members taunted the government calling it anti-Backward Classes.
YSR Congress member V. Vijaysai Reddy (top right) stages a walkout from the Rajya Sabha on July 12, 2019. Photo: RSTV
Mr. Reddy told the House that he was ready to withdraw his bill if the government assured him that they would bring in a stronger legislation on the same lines. His appeal did not move the government. After much back and forth he staged a walk out. “Since the government is not co-operating and I don’t think the rules of the House are being followed, I am walking out,” he said.