A proposal to provide reservation to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in government job promotions moved a step further on Tuesday with the Union Cabinet clearing a Bill which would circumvent the Supreme Court order quashing such a decision of Uttar Pradesh government in April.
The Cabinet nod clears the decks for introduction of a Constitution Amendment Bill in Parliament, a demand of most of the parties, barring the Samajwadi Party.
The Bill seeks to amend at least four Articles of the Constitution to enable the government to provide quota in promotions to SC/STs.
The previous Uttar Pradesh government headed by Mayawati had provided reservation benefits for SCs, STs in promotions to higher posts in government jobs.
The Supreme Court on April 28 quashed it, terming it as unconstitutional and done without any sufficient data.
Subsequently, when the current Monsoon session of Parliament began on August 8, several parties vociferously demanded that a bill be brought to circumvent the SC decision.
In view of these demands, the government promised on August 9 that a Bill would be brought in Parliament.
The Cabinet decision was on Tuesday welcomed by BSP, which has been in the forefront in the demand, but Samajwadi Party criticised it and vowed to oppose.
BJP did not reveal its strategy even as BSP chief Mayawati met Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and her counterpart in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley to seek their party's support in ensuring passage of the bill in this session.
The Constituent Amendment Bill will require two-third majority of the members present in each House for passage.
The government had convened an all-party meeting on August 21 to evolve consensus on the issue. At the meeting, most political parties had favoured the legislation but some parties like BJP had suggested that the government should not rush into such a decision and bring the only after carefully considering all pros and cons.
After the Cabinet nod, Law Minister Salman Khurshid said the government will ensure that the Bill is passed soon. "We got it approved in the Cabinet today which shows that we are committed to bring it soon," he said.
Mayawati along with her party colleague Satish Chandra Mishra met Swaraj and Jaitley, urging them to allow Parliament to function so that this Bill could be taken up, sources said.
The BJP leaders told Mayawati that they will take a final call on this issue after discussing it in the party, they said.
Mayawati voiced apprehensions over passage of the Bill in this session in view of regular adjournments and appealed to NDA allies, especially BJP, as well as UPA partners to "help".
"Given the prevailing situation in Parliament, I do not think this Bill will be passed during this session. Therefore, I appeal and request to NDA allies and BJP to help in passage of the bill," Mayawati told reporters.
"If BJP and allies do not heed to our appeal and UPA does not ensure its passage, then we can assume...they do not want that ST and SC stand on their own feet and derive benefit of promotion," she said.
Mayawati said as debate has already taken place on the issue in the last session, the House requires only about one hour for passage of the Bill.
She said her party is not averse to reservation in promotion for OBC or for religious minorities. "BSP will be the first party to welcome this," Mayawati said.
Samajwadi Party, however, criticised the Cabinet nod to the Bill, saying it is "unconstitutional" and accused the government of doing so to divert attention from the coal block allocation scam.
"We object the government's decision. It is unconstitutional," SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav said, while noting that a Constitutional Amendment has been brought four times and quashed by the Supreme Court each time.
"Once again the amendment will take place and will be rejected by the court," he said.