The passage of two crucial bills in Parliament in the past week has pitted the Congress and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party like never before. The last week has seen the Parliament pass two crucial bills pertaining to the safety of the rights of Dalit and OBC community in the past one week. For OBC rights, the Parliament has passed The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill 2017 which provides constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC). While for Dalits, it has passed The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill 2018 which rules out any provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of atrocities against SC/STs, notwithstanding a Supreme Court order issued earlier.
The BJP-led NDA government and Opposition led by Congress are now claiming credit for the developments that cater to a section of population that also forms a crucial vote bank. The significance of claiming credit for the measures approved by Parliament can be gauged from the response of top leaders from both sides. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has termed the events ‘historic and real-August kranti’. He has even suggested the first week of August to be celebrated as August Kranti from next year onwards.
BJP president Amit Shah also hailed the passing of NCBC bill as “historic”. Soon after the Rajya Sabha passed the bill, Shah told reporters that the government has fulfilled a demand which the backward classes had been making since 1955 but no other government paid heed to. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given justice to the backward community,” he said.
From the Congress, Mallikarjun Kharge said that the bill has been introduced in Parliament by the government after “considerable delay” and under “pressure” from various quarters.
The leader of Opposition also said a “few people are claiming” that after the Modi government has come to power, this SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Bill has been introduced, “but this is an absolute fact that they have acted under the pressure only”.
Kharge further cited various steps taken by the various Congress governments over the years to make the SC/ST law stringent. “This bill which has been brought now is not very different from our bill,” Kharge said. In 2015, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi has raised the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kharge said. Writing a letter, Gandhi questioned Modi about the lapsing of the ordinance which the Congress had brought in 2014.
The Congress and the BJP are heading to four state elections scheduled to be held later this year in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. The Dalits and OBC community form a large vote bank in these states and will have a large influence over the mandate in Lok Sabha 2019 elections.