Critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP-led government have called the bill a last-ditch effort to garner votes in 2019 after its drubbing in the assembly polls, where it lost three states in the Hindi heartland.
The bill, which was passed by the union cabinet on 7 January, was fast-tracked through Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in the last two days, with the winter session of Parliament being extended by an extra day. The bill cleared the upper House with 165 votes in favour of it and seven against it.
This is the Modi government’s last full session of Parliament before the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
While Union ministers were hard-selling the bill inside and outside Parliament, an answer to an unstarred Lok Sabha question indicates that even key ministers may not have known of the plan until late.
Congress leader Ahmed Patel, while criticising the bill, read out a question answered by Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot, where he said the government had no plans of providing reservation for poor candidates of dominant castes.
The answer, reported Hindustan Times, was tabled minutes before the bill was taken up by the Lok Sabha.
The question posed by Telangana MP Kotha Prabhakar Reddy to the Modi government sought to find out “whether the Government is exploring the scope of providing reservation for poor candidates from forward communities for education and employment.”
To this Gehlot replied “At present, no such proposal is under consideration.”
HT said that this indicates that the government’s work on the bill may have started only at the last minute and there was no time to update the minister’s reply, which was sent in advance.
“This is how the government works. The right hand of the government doesn’t know what the left hand is doing,” Patel said.
Gehlot introduced ‘The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenth- Four Amendment) Bill, 2019’ in the House amid the din with opposition members accusing the government of playing politics on the issue.
Gehlot countered the opposition’s charge, claiming that the government’s intent was good and was aimed at uplifting the poor of the nation.
He added that it was under the Modi government that this bill was brought to make such a provision for reservation for economically weaker sections.
“This decision has not been taken in haste. It is brought with good intention keeping in view the welfare of the poor in general category people,” Gehlot said.
(With inputs from PTI)