Women’s Reservation Bill: OBC factor to keep government on tenterhooks
While the BJP questions the UPA government’s failure to pass the bill in 2010 because of the lack of consensus over the OBC quota, the BJP had then rejected the idea of “quota within quota.”
NEW DELHI: While the Modi government is still basking in the glory for passing the Women’s Reservation Bill, the clamour for reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the bill, both from the Opposition and a section of the saffron cadre, may put the Centre in a tight spot.
While the BJP questions the UPA government’s failure to pass the bill in 2010 because of the lack of consensus over the OBC quota, the BJP had then rejected the idea of “quota within quota.” In a written memorandum to the parliamentary standing committee on the bill led by Jayanthi Natarajan in 2008, the BJP stated that while it supports the proposed bill, “we firmly reject the demand for a quota within quota.”
The Natarajan committee examined the bill, which was introduced by the UPA government in 2008. Around 27 years later, as the bill to reserve 33% of the seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies was passed by Parliament last week, the issue of the OBC quota remains unresolved. While there is reservation for SCs and STs in the bill, the provision has not been extended to OBCs, who form a major share of the population.
While the opposition INDIA bloc has been strongly pitching for a ‘quota within quota’ in the bill, BJP leader and former Madhya Pradesh CM Uma Bharti also joined the bandwagon last week seeking a share for the OBCs.
“A meeting was held in Bhopal to firm up the demand for another amendment for reservation for the OBCs,” she wrote on X, implying that she would call more meetings on the contentious issue. With assembly polls around the corner, Congress leaders including Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi have been cornering the government by demanding a caste census and a representation for OBCs in bureaucracy.
Replying to a debate in Lok Sabha on the concerns flagged by opposition MPs, Home Minister Amit Shah said, “Some people are saying on social media that there is no OBC reservation or Muslim reservation, so don’t support the bill. I would say that if you don’t support the bill, will the reservations come sooner? It will still come after 2029. Give your support, then there will be a guarantee and then whichever government comes will bring in any change that may be,” he said.
The demand for a sub-quota for OBCs was always raised since the bill was first introduced in 1996. However, there was no consensus among parties. The bill was referred to a joint parliamentary panel chaired by Geeta Mukherjee, which also recommended that the government considered extending the benefit to OBCs at an appropriate time.
Later in 2008, the standing committee led by Natarajan submitted its report on the bill after holding extensive consultations with various political parties and stakeholders. While social justice parties had supported the OBC quota, the BJP said that it is not in favour of a quota within quota.
In a written memorandum to the parliamentary standing committee on Women’s Reservation Bill led by Jayanthi Natarajan in 2008, the BJP had stated that it “firmly rejects the demand for a quota within quota”. Now 27 years later, the issue of the OBC quota still remains unresolved.