New Delhi: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came together with opposition parties in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, in a rare show of consensus, to unanimously pass the 123rd Constitutional Amendment bill, 2018 that provides constitutional status to the commission for other backward classes (OBCs).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi were present in the Lower House when the bill was passed with 406 votes in its favour and none against.

Senior leaders of the BJP said that the long-standing demand of OBC community could be realised because of the efforts of the Union government under Modi, reiterating that the NDA was working for the upliftment of the backwards and financially weaker sections.

“When National Democratic Alliance came to power, the Prime Minister had categorically stated that the government is dedicated to (the upliftment of the) backwards and the financially weaker sections of the country. The passage of the bill is realisation of the promise made to the people of the country. Soon after coming to power, the Prime Minister took a decision to give constitutional status to the OBC commission," said Thawar Chand Gehlot, minister of social justice and empowerment during his reply in Parliament on the bill.

The bill seeks to grant constitutional status to the National Commission on Backward Classes (NCBC), on a par with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST).

The crucial constitutional amendment comes at a time when the Union cabinet had passed a new legislation to be introduced in Parliament to restore provisions of the law on atrocities against scheduled castes (SC) and scheduled tribes (ST) after safeguards were introduced by the Supreme Court earlier this year.

The passage of the constitutional amendment and decision of the government on SC and ST sends a clear message that BJP under Modi is trying to reach out to the socially and financially weaker sections of the people before the 2019 general elections. The BJP leadership has been consistently making efforts to expand the voter base of the party and reach out to the weaker sections of the people.

While all political parties joined hands for the passage of the constitutional amendment, several political parties, including the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), demanded that the centre should carry out caste-based census in the country to find out the percentage of population of each caste in the country.

“Congress party completely supports and we are not opposed to the bill in any manner...but it has been four years since this government came, why is this process being started when only eight months for elections are left? We hope this will not just be an election rally issue and the government will ensure effective implementation?" said Tamradwaj Sahu, a senior Congress leader.

The government should look at a separate ministry for OBCs to address their concerns, Sahu added.

The demand for caste-based census also echoed from several other parties.

“We have no reason to fight with any community. The BJP is not ready for a caste-based census to be carried out in the country and we feel even the Congress party is not agreeable to the demand," Dharmendra Yadav, senior SP leader and member of Parliament, said in the Lok Sabha.

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