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Lok Sabha passes Bill to restore states' powers over OBC list ; Opposition extends support

The Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill received support from all Opposition parties after more than three weeks of constant disruptions in both the Houses over the Pegasus Project report, farm reform laws and price rise in the Monsoon Session of Parliament that began on July 19.

August 10, 2021 / 08:47 PM IST

Lok Sabha on August 10 passed the Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill that aims at restoring powers of states and Union Territories to notify their own list of backward classes.

The Bill was passed through a division vote. All the 385 members who were present in the House voted in favour of the legislation.

The House witnessed discussion in an orderly manner, unlike past three weeks of Monsoon Session when the proceedings of both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were disrupted due to the Opposition's protests over Pegasus Project report, farm reform laws and price rise.

The Bill received support from all Opposition parties who took part in the debate that lasted for more than five-and-a-half hours before the division voting to pass the legislation took place. But soon after the Bill was passed, the Opposition leaders resumed their protest.

READ: Bill to restore states' powers over OBC list to get Opposition support in Parliament

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Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Dr Virendra Kumar introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha on August 9. He moved the "historic legislation" for consideration at 12: 15 pm on August 10 which was followed by remarks by leaders of both ruling and Opposition parties till 5:45 pm.

"The Bill would benefit 671 castes in the country. It will restore the states' rights to prepare their own lists of OBCs so that various communities can be given social and economic justice," he said.

Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary said that when the original Constitution amendment was brought in 2018, Opposition had warned the government that it will take away rights of state but the government didn't listen then. He said that the Congress party was being a responsible party by cooperating with the government on the Constituent Amendment Bill.

"When states started protesting, people started protesting and with an eye on election, you (Centre) brought this Bill now.  But we also demand that 50 percent ceiling be removed," Chowdhary  said.  At least 30 members of parliament took part in the discussion on the Bill.

The Bill has political ramifications as restoring powers of the states to identify backward classes has been a demand by many regional parties and even the ruling BJP's  OBC leaders. The BJP, and the Opposition parties, including the Congress, want to get the support among the OBC communities in the poll-bound states, especially in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh, sources said.

That is precisely why all Opposition parties are on the same page on the importance of the Bill, they said. The Congress, they said, paused the protest and participated in the discussion to prevent the government from projecting it as a party that is opposing a key legislation related to OBCs.

Also, read: Parliament Monsoon Session: Opposition blames Centre for deadlock, seeks debate on Pegasus in both Houses

The new Bill, coming ahead of crucial elections in five states early next year, will effectively bypass the Supreme Court’s May 2021 decision, which triggered protests by state governments and other backward caste (OBC) groups.

On May 5, while scrapping the quota for Marathas in Maharashtra, the apex court had ruled that after the 102nd amendment to the Constitution made in 2018, only the Centre can notify socially and educationally backward classes, not the states.

During the discussion in Lok Sabha, most of the Opposition leaders who supported the Bill, including SP's Akhilesh Yadav and AIMIM's Asaduddin Owaisi, demanded to remove the 50 percent limit.

Opposition support to pass the bill was significant as a constitutional amendment requires two-thirds majority of lawmakers who are present during the proceedings, with at least 50 percent in attendance.

Meanwhile, the protests continued in Rajya Sabha and the House was adjourned for the day.
Gulam Jeelani is a journalist with over 11 years of reporting experience. Based in New Delhi, he covers politics and governance for Moneycontrol.
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