Rajya Sabha clears quota in promotions bill, Lok Sabha test ahead

New Delhi:  The government managed to pass the quota in promotions bill in the Rajya Sabha on Monday. Despite strong opposition from the Samajwadi Party, the bill finally got the backing of 194 members while 10 voted against the legislation in a House of 245. But the bigger hurdle is in the Lok Sabha where the SP has a larger chunk with 23 MPs. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath has said that he will speak to Mr Yadav.
Here are the latest developments:
  1. Since the bill seeks to amend the Constitution, it needed a two-third majority to be passed. In the end it was no contest in the Rajya Sabha, with the main Opposition party - the BJP - agreeing to support the bill with some amendments.
  2. 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.
  3. Ram Gopal Yadav, a leader from Mr Yadav's party 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.
  4. In SP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, 18 lakh government employees on strike since Friday, said their protest against the bill would continue.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Over the weekend, Mr Yadav had hinted that he may reconsider his support to Dr Manmohan Singh's government if the "quota bill" is cleared. He said on Monday, "We will decide whether or not withdraw support when the time comes."
  8. His party has also alleged blackmail - a spokesperson said on Sunday 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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