Even as ruckus continues in Parliament with the Opposition saying that important Bills are being pushed through by the government without a discussion, a rare consensus has emerged regarding the 127th Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2021.
The Opposition parties have strategically agreed to set aside the prevailing acrimony to support the significant amendment bill that is scheduled to come for passage in Lok Sabha later today. The upcoming Assembly elections early next year – in Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Punjab, Goa and Uttarakhand – have brought all the parties on the same page where this Bill is concerned. All the political parties are looking at the substantial OBC votes in the states headed for polls.
The Amendment Bill seeks to restore the powers of states to notify backward classes, bypassing a May 2021 Supreme Court ruling that said only the Centre could notify socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs). The power to identify backward classes was taken away from the states. The Supreme Court decision had triggered protests by state governments and even OBCs from within the government.
The floor leaders of the Opposition parties had met at the office of leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge before the session commenced in the morning. While finalising the strategy for the last remaining week of Parliament, the leaders decided to support the 127th Constitutional Bill as an “exception”. They decided that they would cooperate in the passage of the important bill but continue the protests on the other issues.
The support of the Opposition is crucial for the Bill since a Constitutional amendment requires two-thirds majority of the members present and voting in the House during the proceedings, with at least 50 per cent of the lawmakers required to be in attendance.
The127th Constitutional Amendment Bill seeks to amend clauses 1 and 2 of Article 342 A and introduce clause 342 A (3) that specifically authorises states to maintain their State List of SEBCs. This would also entail amendments in Articles 366 (26C) and 338B (9) to enable the states to directly notify OBC and SEBCs without having to refer to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).
The Amendment was necessitated after the Supreme Court, in its May 5 ruling, upheld the 102nd Constitutional Amendment, 2018, effectively striking down the Maratha quota introduced by the Maharashtra government - a politically charged issue.
The 102nd Amendment had scrapped the power of the states to identify and notify SEBCs while according constitutional status to the NCBC and giving it the power to examine the grievances in the implementation of the various welfare schemes meant for the OBCs.