In what is being seen as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'masterstroke' ahead of the 2019 general election, the Lok Sabha on Tuesday cleared a Bill which provides 10 per cent reservation in jobs and educational institutions to economically backward section in the general category. The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill 2019, which was approved by the Union Cabinet on Monday, was brought in on the last day of the Winter Session of Lok Sabha. The Bill will now be tabled in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
The Bill got support of 323 MPs while three voted against it after a marathon debate which continued till 10 pm. While the Modi government has been stressing that the quota will bridge the gap between the poor and the rich irrespective of caste and religion, the Opposition has been questioning the timing of the introduction of the Bill in the Lower House of Parliament.
"We are resolutely committed to the principle of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.’ It is our endeavour to ensure that every poor person, irrespective of caste or creed gets to lead a life of dignity, and gets access to all possible opportunities," PM Modi tweeted after the Bill was cleared by the Lok Sabha.
We are resolutely committed to the principle of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.’— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 8, 2019
It is our endeavour to ensure that every poor person, irrespective of caste or creed gets to lead a life of dignity, and gets access to all possible opportunities.
Calling the Bill 'historic', Home Minister Rajnath Singh expressed the hope that it will be cleared by the Rajya Sabha as well.
"It's a historic bill. Those people who couldn't get the benefits of reservation till now will be benefited. It had been a demand of people since a long time. This bill has been brought in interest of the nation. I'm assured that it'll be passed in Rajya Sabha also," Rajnath Singh said.
Introducing the Bill, Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot said the economically weaker sections of citizens have 'largely remained excluded from attending the higher educational institutions and public employment on account of their financial incapacity to compete with the persons who are economically more privileged'.
The Bill also makes it clear that reservation would be "in addition to the existing reservations and subject to a maximum of ten per cent of the total seats in each category".
Reservation Bill has lacunas, says Opposition
Describing the reservation Bill as political gimmick, Opposition parties led by the Congress expressed apprehension that the law empowering 10 per cent reservation to the upper caste may not stand judicial scrutiny.
Citing P V Narasimha Rao's government effort to bring in 10 per cent reservation on the basis of economic criteria, K V Thomas of the Congress said it was struck down by the Supreme Court.
This legislation has been made in haste and has so many lacunas, he said, adding, it should be sent to Joint Parliamentary Committee for examination.
"It was only yesterday that Union Cabinet approved the Constitution Amendment for 10 per cent quota for poor under general category on economic basis and was introduced in Parliament today. It raises question on the sincerity of the government," he said.
It seems to be political 'jumla' to win election as cewspapers have written today, he added.
Participating in the debate, M Thambidurai (AIADMK) said reservation is not on economic backwardness but on social backwardness.
He pointed out that government has many schemes for upliftment of economically poor sections of the society and did that mean that these schemes have failed.
Sudip Bandyopadhyay (TMC) said that the Bill was not about jobs but about misleading the youth. The Bill, he said, was about promising and not delivering and was a fake dream that will never become a reality.
Questioning the urgency of Bill, Supriya Sule (NCP) said if the government had been sincere, this bill would not have come on the last day of the last session.
She also said that one of the Cabinet Minister's expressed apprehension that the law may not get approval from the Supreme Court.
She was referring to a remark made by Ramvilas Paswan who said the government should ensure that it should not get into a legal tangle. Dushyant Chautala (INLD) also said the legislation would be struck down by the Supreme Court.
While supporting the Bill, Dharmendra Yadav (SP) said that upper caste also knows the intent of the government as it is just an election gimmick.
Jaiprakash Narayan Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) said the way the Bill has been brought in is nothing less than deceit for the upper caste.
WATCH: Lok Sabha passes Bill for 10 per cent reservation for 'poor' in general category
(With inputs from agencies)