Fate of bill on new body for OBCs uncertain
New Delhi: The fate of a bill—the Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017—that seeks to give constitutional status to the National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (NSEBC), hangs in the balance as the opposition as well as some National Democratic Alliance (NDA) members in the select committee meeting on Friday had reservations on the draft.
At least seven dissent notes were submitted during the meeting of the select committee, including those from the Congress and Communist Part of India (Marxist). Members from the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and NDA ally Shiv Sena also raised concerns over the bill, said people aware of developments.
Consensus on this bill is key not just because it is a politically sensitive issue as the so-called Other Backward Classes (OBCs) have been a key support base for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but also because if passed, this will be only the second constitutional amendment to go through since 2014.
“The government is attempting to hoodwink the entire OBC community. We simply wanted constitutional status but there is not much clarity. There is no clarity over who will be the chairman of such a committee or what will be their qualifications. There is an attempt to dilute the powers of the states too,” a person aware of developments said, requesting anonymity.
The cabinet in March this year had decided to give constitutional status to the NSEBC, which is meant to replace the National Commission for Backward Classes.
Opposition parties feel that the commission should have at least five members including a woman and a minority community member, and that all members should be from the OBC community.
“NDA allies Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) also raised similar concerns,” another person aware of the developments said.
Leaders from the BJP-led NDA are hopeful that a breakthrough will emerge in the monsoon session after senior ministers intervene and reach out to opposition parties.
A push for the new commission by the Narendra Modi government comes against the backdrop of BJP’s landslide win in the Uttar Pradesh elections this year where OBCs played a significant role.
Another concern flagged by opposition parties pertained to the dilution of power of state commissions vis-à-vis inclusion or exclusion of OBCs from state lists.