Though the NRC-Assam continued to dominate the discourse, the Lok Sabha showed rare unanimity in passing a Bill granting constitutional status to the National Commission to Backward Classes, 406 to zero votes. That was rare for this Lower House. Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot, of course, gave credit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for pushing for what he called a pro-poor legislation. The only dig came from the unofficial BJP ally, BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab, whose amendment seeking women members on the panel was defeated.
Mahtab took a swipe at the minister’s rather lengthy reply with a story about a legal counsel hoping to tire out the judge with the length of his plea! This Bill, along with the Union Home Minister’s declaration that the government will bring the amendment restoring the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act to its earlier form this session itself, had the BJP political managers rather pleased. “Social engineering done,” one of them claimed. There was, however, a bit of doubt expressed by lawmakers from the ‘forward castes’ whether the proposed SC/ST amendment overruling the Supreme Court verdict would withstand legal scrutiny.
NRC and the politics
With reports pouring in that a large number of people, legitimate citizens, have been left out of the NRC draft in Assam, it was only to be expected that there would be furore in the House. Sure enough, the Rajya Sabha had to be adjourned, but after running smoothly in the first half. Moreover, the opposition’s anger that the chair was allowing BJP chief Amit Shah to complete his interrupted speech. This amidst reports of the opposition writing a letter to their Chair alleging discrimination. Meanwhile, the chatter around Parliament corridors was mostly over BJP finally get a ‘winning formula’ in place — a countrywide citizenship register! Though it had no basis on any tangible proposal from the government side as yet.
MPs make news outside
By now, the consensus seemed to be that it’s Indian citizens vs Bangladeshi immigrants for the BJP and Bengali sentiment vs forced refugee status for the TMC. Daggers were drawn. Both sides raised their pitch, mostly outside. A group of TMC MPs got manhandled by the Assam Police at Silichar airport while forcibly trying to enter the city. They had osentibly gone on an invite of a citizen’s forum to see the ground reality. But curfew was imposed before they landed, hence the crackdown. More ruckus in Parliament is expected on Friday over violations of elected members’ rights and dignity. Sushmita Dev, Congress MP from Silchar, quickly tweeted her letter to Chief Secretary Assam to allow that the TMC MPs entry if there’s no law and order issue.