Help pass OBC Amendment bill: Prahlad Joshi to opposition

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Amid impasse over the Pegasus issue, Union parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi told ET on Sunday that the government will introduce in Parliament this week the Constitution (127th) Amendment Bill aimed at restoring power to states and Union Territories (UTs) to notify their own lists of other backward classes (OBCs).

Joshi appealed to the opposition to help pass the bill “because it involves the welfare of the OBCs”. Joshi and Piyush Goyal, leader of the Rajya Sabha, will meet the opposition floor leaders in this regard, perhaps on Monday. “We are now entering the last week of the monsoon session and the government will introduce the Constitution (Amendment) Bill in the coming days. It is a very important bill to restore, in the light of the Supreme Court order, the rights of the states and UTs to notify their own lists of the OBCs,” said Joshi. “I, therefore, appeal to the entire opposition parties to extend their cooperation, by forgetting the past differences, in passing this bill by bringing order in the Houses, by discussing and voting because it involves the larger cause of OBC reservation and welfare.”

Asked whether he would talk to the opposition on the bill, Joshi said: “Yes. I am reaching Delhi (from Karnataka) tonight (Sunday). We would be talking to the opposition. I and (Piyush) Goyal ji will meet them most likely tomorrow (Monday) and will appeal to them to cooperate in passing this bill.”

The government’s outreach and appeal could provide the opposition an opening to seize as they, as ET reported last Saturday, are already discussing the option of pausing the Pegasus protest to showcase before the pan-India OBC electoral gallery their backing for this politically sensitive bill. Though opposition leaders have a compulsion to enable passing of the bill and keep their unity intact, some could still “press” for a House debate on Pegasus in return as a give-and-take.

Since passing of a Constitution Amen- dment Bill requires voting in both the Houses, with the Houses being in order, and support of the majority of the Houses’ strength and two-thirds of those present and voting, the government needs to mobilise the opposition support.

Joshi’s appeal comes even as the floor leaders of 14 agitating opposition parties are meeting on Monday morning to collectively deal with the anticipated government plan to introduce the OBC bill.

Asked about his party’s stand on the matter, Congress’ Lok Sabha floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury told ET: “The Congress Party, in principle, supports the OBC reservation and the states’ rights to notify the OBC lists as it is part of the federal principles. All state governments are demanding restoration of their rights after the SC order. Leaders of like-minded opposition parties will collectively discuss and arrive at a stand on the bill. But, it is the responsibility of the government to reach out to the opposition, discuss and ensure order in the House when the Constitution (Amendment) Bill is taken up.”

RJD MP Manoj Jha said: “Since RJD has been on the forefront of raising states’ right to notify the OBC lists, our party will take a nuanced stand and like-minded opposition parties will collectively decide their stand.”

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