Congress does balancing act over job quota bill

Amit Agnihotri

New Delhi, Dec 11 (IANS) Finding itself in a "complex" situation, the Congress is doing a fine balancing act in trying to resolve the Rajya Sabha deadlock over the bill on reservations for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in job promotions and says it hopes for a positive result.

"It (resolving the deadlock) is a complex issue, but we are committed to the cause of social justice," Congress spokesperson P.C. Chacko said.

Both the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which "helped" the government win the FDI in retail vote in parliament last week, have diametrically opposite stands on the bill.

The bill is possibly the next acid test for the government with the SP opposed to it and the BSP for it.

Since it is a constitution amendment bill, it would require a two-thirds majority - which the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance does not have either in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha. It would thus need all the support it can muster.

Government sources said they were talking to the SP to convince it.

"The two parties offer us issue-based support..we hope to resolve the issue," said a Congress MP in the upper house while expressing the hope that the party would be able to bring the SP on board. He said the two parties may have different views on the bill but that does not mean a solution cannot be found.

The SP is, however, determined to continue with its protest on the bill and not to let it get passed.

"We will oppose it and ask the government to remove disputed issues from the list of business to let the house function," SP leader Naresh Agarwal said.

"This is dividing society. The general, the backwards, all other classes will be affected with this reservation. How can you benefit one by taking away rights of others," he asked.

The Rajya Sabha has seen several adjournments this session over differences on the bill.

BSP chief Mayawati has accused the BJP of stalling the Rajya Sabha because it did not want the bill to be passed.

"Today (Monday) this bill was to come. But it's sad that to stop this bill, the BJP and company raised the FDI lobbying issue," Mayawati said.

BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said his party was all for social justice but within constitutional parameters.

"All classes of society, whether it is SC, backward classes, or minorities, should come into the mainstream," BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.

The bill was listed in the Rajya Sabha and was to be taken up Monday. Now, it will have to be rescheduled.

(Amit Agnihotri can be contacted at