Government Forced to Drop Clause From Constitution Amendment Bill as MPs Miss Rajya Sabha Vote

Rajya Sabha

Rajya Sabha. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: An important clause from a constitution amendment Bill granting constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes had to be dropped when nearly 30 government MPs, almost half of whom are ministers, were absent from the Rajya Sabha at the time of the vote on Monday.

The 123rd amendment of the constitution was passed without clause 3, which dealt with the composition of the commission, reported the Indian Express.

The government will now have to start the whole process afresh in the Lok Sabha with a new Bill that won’t have to include amendments pushed through in the Rajya Sabha by the opposition.

The government, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had reminded the MPs multiple times to be present in the house. The amendments passed with a simple majority of 74-52. However, for the amended clause to become a part of the Bill, a two-thirds majority is needed since it was a constitutional amendment bill.

Once an amendment is passed, it cannot be unpassed, so the only hope for the clause being included was that the whole house voted together. However, a consensus could not be reached, so it had to be dropped. The opposition refused to allow any MPs from the government to enter later on.

Finance minister and leader of the house Arun Jaitley said, “If they want OBC reservation to fail, then so be it.” This caused Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury to assert their commitment to OBC reservation, but they did not change their position on allowing government MPs to enter.

BJP president Amit Shah, at the party’s parliamentary meeting today, took a serious view of the party members not attending the Rajya Sabha despite a whip and said he will seek a written explanation from the MPs who were absent.

Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar told PTI, “When the party issues a whip, members must be present in the house. The party president has taken a serious view of the absence of members,” adding that Shah asked the MPs to be present in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha during parliament session and told them “not to repeat” this.

At the meeting, Shah also accused the Congress of “conspiring” to derail the constitution amendment bill. “The bill should have been passed by parliament in the budget session as the Lok Sabha had passed it unanimously. But the Rajya Sabha sent to a select committee. All parties made unanimous recommendations in the committee but the Congress again conspired to stop it,” he said.

(With inputs from PTI)