The Rajya Sabha will vote at 6 pm today on whether there should be reservation in promotions in government jobs for Dalits and tribals, and the BJP is expected to vote in favour of the move now after the government has reportedly agreed to retain a clause that guarantees efficiency of administration.
Article 335 of the Constitution provides that the claims of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes have to be balanced with maintaining efficiency in administration. The Bill introduced in the Rajya Sabha last week provides that it will override Article 335. The BJP had voiced concern on this and the government has reportedly agreed to remove this reference through an official amendment to the bill.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said on Sunday that his party the JD(U), a key constituent of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), supported the bill. "JD(U) favours the bill as the community's socio-economic and political condition has not reached the standard where the incentive cannot be considered for them. Our party will support it and in Bihar we already have the bill running," he said.
The Congress has issued a whip to its MPs in the Rajya Sabha to be present in House and vote today. The government, which is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha, needs the opposition's support to pass the Bill, which has been promoted chiefly by the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party; Ms Mayawati's arch-rival Samajwadi Party (SP), led by Mulayam Singh Yadav, is vociferously opposed to this legislation as it will affect his upper caste vote base.
In SP-ruled Uttar Pradaesh, 18 lakh government employees are on indefinite strike against the move to provide quota in promotions in government jobs.
SP leader and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav have earlier said that implementation of the bill will set a bad precedent. On Saturday, Mr Yadav also issued a veiled threat to the Congress, saying he will review his stand on supporting the UPA government which banks heavily on his party for the external support that it provides.
"We will decide when the situation arises," he said in Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh, when asked if the SP will continue to support the government if the bill is taken up. His party has also alleged that the UPA government is trying to "blackmail" Mr Yadav over his refusal to back the bill. "Conspiracy is on to trap the Samajwadi Party chief in the CBI net for not supporting FDI and a bill on quota in promotions," SP spokesman Rajendra Chowdhury said on Sunday referring to the Supreme Court order last week that Mr Yadav and members of his family should be investigated in a case of disproportionate assets.
There has been much chaos in the upper house all of last week because of the SP and BSP's opposite positions on the Bill, with days lost to adjournments. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath has said he will ensure that the "quota bill" is also cleared by the Lok Sabha before this session of Parliament ends on December 20.