Senior Congress leader and former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Monday accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of not being serious about passing the Other Backward Class (OBC) Commission Bill. Chidambaram took to Twitter and wrote, “Government was totally unprepared and nonchalant. Did not even have full strength! Amendments were before House for several days. Government should have engaged Opposition and worked out agreement.” Blaming the government for their thin strength in the house today, the former union finance minister further said that the government should have gracefully accepted amendments that strengthened the Bill.
Echoing similar sentiments, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh also lashed out at the BJP for their absence from the House. “BJP not serious about passing OBC Commission Constitution Amendment Bill. More than 30 of their MPs and 5 Ministers absent. Utter failure of Arun Jaitley Leader of the House and MOS Parliamentary Affairs in not mobilising support for the Bill,” Digvijaya Singh said in a series of tweets later. “What were our Amendments? Increase the number of Members from 3 to 5. All members should be from OBC one of them should be a Woman and one of them should be from Minorities. And the State Commission recommendation should be binding and if GOI differs then they should give reason in writing,” he said.
“Are these Amendments against OBC? Shouldn’t Council of States not protect the interests of the State?” Singh asked. While the Constitution amendment required votes of two third members present in the House, amendment could be passed by majority vote. The NDA is in minority in the Rajya Sabha and has only 79 members. The Congress’ strongly worded statements came after the amendment moved by the Opposition to a bill granting constitutional status to the OBC Commission was passed, because many members of ruling NDA were absent from the House.
A Bill to accord constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes, popularly known as Other Backward Classes (OBC) Commission, was referred to the Select Committee of Upper House of the Parliament after the Opposition on April 11 blocked its consideration in the Rajya Sabha and insisted that it be sent to a Select Committee for proper scrutiny. The Bill was passed with huge majority in the Lok Sabha on April 10. The OBC Parliamentary Committee made a recommendation in this regard. MPs from all parties had personally requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to amend the Constitution in this regard. It is being said that, once the Bill is passed in the Rajya Sabha, the OBC Commission will become as powerful as the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and National Commission for Schedule Tribes.
Till date, the OBC Commission is simply a legal body, whose job is to advise the government regarding the inclusion or removal of caste/community lists. But from now on, this commission can effectively work towards the welfare and upliftment of people belonging to the socially and educationally backward classes. The proposed commission will hear the grievances of socially and educationally backward classes, a function discharged so far by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes. It also seeks to insert a new Article 342A to provide that the President may, by public notification, specify the socially and educationally backward classes.