New Delhi: Many Government offices are closed indefinitely across Uttar Pradesh with about 18 lakh employees on strike today against what they call attempts at the "forcible passage" of a bill that seeks to reserve promotions in government jobs for Dalits and tribals. But Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is not in capital Lucknow. He is attending a function at his village Saifai.
Essential services like hospitals, power and transport have not been affected by the strike - most of the agitating employees belong to the Irrigation, Power and Public Works Departments.
On Monday at 5 pm, the Rajya Sabha will vote on the Bill. The Samajwadi Party, which rules Uttar Pradesh, opposes the move and the employees on strike say they have the sympathy of the state government. Mr Yadav though has not made any move to reach out to them.
His father Mulayam Singh Yadav too is in Saifai today.
The Samajwadi Party held up Rajya Sabha proceedings yesterday morning and a debate on the "quota Bill" could only begin once the nine SP members had walked out. The SP's rival Mayawati argued passionately for its exigent implementation.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told NDTV yesterday that he will ensure that the "quota bill" is also cleared by the Lok Sabha before this session of Parliament ends on December 20.
The Samajwadi Party says the move to reserve promotions is unacceptable; Mayawati says it's essential; the main opposition party, the BJP, is reportedly willing to support the legislation with some amendments.
"Reservation should not be implemented in a manner that it allows reverse discrimination," said BJP leader Arun Jaitley.
In the Rajya Sabha, as avowed earlier this week, Mulayam Singh's MPs tried to prevent a debate on the bill by shouting and trying to disrupt proceedings, a strategy that had worked until today in forcing adjournments of the house, effectively paralysing the Rajya Sabha. But the presiding officer, Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien, took firm action against the cacophonous Samajwadi Party MPs. He asked two of them to leave the House and warned that they would be evicted if they did not oblige. Finally, all nine Samajwadi MPs walked out and the debate on the proposed legislation began.
Critics say this was an astute exit strategy - Mr Yadav's putative opposition to the quota bill was recorded, but he did not obstruct the government's efforts to push it through.
Neither Mr Yadav nor Mayawati participate in the government at the Centre, but provide external support to the shaky coalition. Last week, they rescued the government, facilitating an important victory in Parliament on the contentious decision to allow foreign supermarkets into India.