The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) may have been the government’s toast last week, but crafting the payback is going to be tougher. In fact, it may not be possible without the BJP’s help.
The issue at hand is the SC/ST quotas in promotions Bill on which the BSP has placed a premium, stalling the Rajya Sabha for days. It was not until the matter was listed for discussion, did the BSP start leaning in favour of the government on the FDI vote.
But then, the Bill is facing an equally strong opposition from the UPA’s other key outside supporter — BSP’s archrival the Samajwadi Party (SP), which is prepared to go to the extent of blocking a discussion. The party is convinced that once a discussion is allowed, there is no stopping the Bill’s passage because no political party will take a public position against SC/STs.
In many ways, the situation is quite similar to the Women’s Reservation Bill with SP members expected to storm into the well of the House on the day of the discussion. And if no discussion is allowed, the BSP will go back to stalling House proceedings.
The only way out, it seems, is to have a consensus among all other parties to suspend members who prevent conduct of the debate after the Chair has permitted a discussion. The rule allows the Chair to act against individual members but not a party.
In short, the Chair should be authorised by a motion of the House to suspend members and use marshals, if necessary, to ensure that a discussion takes place.
This was done during the Women’s Reservation Bill when Prithviraj Chavan, then MoS Parliamentary Affairs, moved a motion on suspending seven RS members from the SP and the RJD who were preventing a discussion. The BJP seconded it and the House adopted the motion.
Will the BJP cooperate on this Bill too, particularly after Mayawati’s tirade against Sushma Swaraj? The BJP has to offset this question against the political backlash of delaying a Bill for SC/STs.
The government is likely to push for an all-party meeting to obtain a consensus on holding a discussion, hoping to corner other parties into taking a position too. Either way, this issue is bound to test the UPA’s nerves in the remaining weeks of the Winter Session.
Pranab is a deputy editor based in Delhi, firstname.lastname@example.org