New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha has voted in favour of a Bill that seeks to amend the Constitution to allow reservation in government job promotions for Dalits and tribals - 206 votes were cast in favour of the Bill and 10 against it of a total 216. The UPA government is in a minority in the 244-seat Rajya Sabha, but the opposition helped push the legislation through. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told NDTV that the government is likely to introduce this bill in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.
Here are the 10 latest developments in this story:
- Since the Bill seeks to amend the Constitution, it needed a two-third majority to be passed. In the end it was no contest, with the main opposition party - the BJP - agreeing to support the bill with some amendments.
- That isolated Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwad Party, which aggressively opposes it, mainly because it would upset the party's core vote bank that comprises backward castes and Muslims. The Samajwadi Party has nine Rajya Sabha MPs, all of whom voted against the bill.
- Ram Gopal Yadav, a leader from Mr Yadav's party today demanded in the Rajya Sabha a similar amendment to provide reservation to Muslims. The party asked for an urgent debate on this, leading to chaos and an adjournment of the House. "Our stand on the issue remains clear. If there is any community that is suffering, it is the Muslims," Mulayam Singh Yadav told reporters outside Parliament.
- In SP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, 18 lakh government employees on strike since Friday, said their protest against the bill would continue.
- The bill's biggest advocate has been Mr Yadav's rival from Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati, who heads the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Her party has 15 Rajya Sabha MPs.
- Both Mr Yadav and Mayawati do not participate in the ruling UPA coalition, but provide external support to the minority government; both are crucial to its survival.
- Over the weekend, Mr Yadav hinted that he may reconsider his support to Dr Manmohan Singh's government if the "quota bill" is cleared. Today he said, "We will decide whether or not withdraw support when the time comes."
- His party has also alleged blackmail - a spokesperson said yesterday that the government is using a CBI investigation against Mr Yadav and his sons for alleged corruption to force the Samajwadi Party to support the quota bill. The party suggested similar pressure tactics had been used to get Mr Yadav to back the contentious reforms in retail which were cleared by Parliament earlier this month and allow the entry of foreign super-markets like Wal-Mart.
- Article 335 of the Constitution provides that the claims of Scheduled Castes and Tribes have to be balanced with maintaining efficiency in administration. The Bill introduced in the Rajya Sabha last week would override Article 335. The BJP shared it concern over this; the government has reportedly agreed to remove this reference through an official amendment to the Bill.
- There was much chaos in the upper house all of last week because of protests by Mayawati and Mr Yadav's parliamentarians. The government is worried about squandering more time because it wants Parliament to take up important reforms in the pension and insurance sectors. It has also promised to ensure that the Lok Sabha too approves the quota in promotions Bill before this session of Parliament ends on Thursday, December 20.