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Union Cabinet may clear quota bill on Monday
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August 20, 2006 19:29 IST
Under stress from United Progressive Alliance allies, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] has convened an emergency meeting of the Cabinet on Monday to clear the Bill aimed at providing 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes in government-run higher educational institutions.

Confirming the Cabinet meeting, official sources on Sunday said that it had been summoned for considering the single-point agenda of OBC reservation on which Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh [Images] had run into problems with the Election Commission on the eve of the recent assembly polls.

The move is apparently aimed at introducing the Bill before the end of the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament.

It comes in the wake of mounting demands from UPA allies, particularly from those from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-led Democratic Progressive Alliance in Tamil Nadu and a tiff last week between Pattali Makkal Katchi chief Dr S Ramadoss and Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad.

While DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi had personally written a letter to Dr Singh earlier this month, virtually warning the Centre against delaying the proposal, a DPA parliamentarians' delegation from the state, which included Congress members, had called on the prime minister, asking him to immediately meet the demand.

Dr Ramadoss had also written a letter to Dr Singh last week to have the quota Bill passed by the monsoon session.

Pressure from Tamil Nadu parties had started mounting following reports that the government was considering a phased implementation of the quota proposal, giving sufficient time to premier institutions such as IIMs and IITs to create additional infrastructure necessary for accommodating larger number of students without compromising on quality.

Lalu was also reported to be in favour of a phased implementation, prompting Dr Ramadoss to hit out at the move.

Tamil Nadu parties pointed out that the UPA and the Left parties had at a recent meeting committed themselves to the introduction of the Bill in the current session.

The OBC quota Oversight Committee, headed by former Karnataka Chief Minister M Veerappa Moily, in its interim report had also felt the need for allowing time for higher educational institutions to implement the full-fledged quota system.

Arjun Singh was slapped with a show-cause notice by the Election Commission on the eve of Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu, Kerala [Images], West Bengal, Assam and Pondicherry for reportedly talking about the provision of 27 per cent OBC quota in violation of the model code of conduct.

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