Both fear that it may sound their death-knell in the electorally important State of Uttar Pradesh

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s efforts to push through the Constitution (117th Amendment) Bill on reservation in promotions in government jobs for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is clearly aimed at ensuring the stability of the Central government. But Congressmen say that if the Lok Sabha clears the Bill on Thursday (it has already been passed by the Rajya Sabha), it will sound the death knell for the party in Uttar Pradesh.

The Bill’s chief proponent, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which has demanded its passage in exchange for the support it extended to the government on the FDI issue, stands to consolidate its Dalit vote base in U.P. The Samajwadi Party (SP), which is opposing the Bill — and tried to prevent its introduction in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday — not only expects to strengthen its Other Backward Classes (OBC) constituency in U.P., but also draw in the upper castes, which see reservation in promotions as a move to dent their dominance in government jobs.

But, for the two premier parties — the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — the Bill’s passage is bad news. Indeed, this explains the murmurs of protest among the BJP’s Lok Sabha MPs. A day after the party helped pass the Bill in the Rajya Sabha, senior leaders Murli Manohar Joshi and Lalji Tandon stressed at the parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday that the move could have an adverse impact on their support base in U.P.

Sources said Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, explaining the rationale behind extending support to the Bill, said the BJP could claim credit for compelling the government to introduce amendments to provide a ceiling of 22 per cent, and incorporating principles of efficiency through annual confidential reports for such promotions.

Apparently, it is not just the BJP MPs from U.P. who are concerned about the impact of the Bill on their vote base; those from Madhya Pradesh and Bihar are equally worried.

Unusual sight

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Lok Sabha saw the unusual sight of Congress party president Sonia Gandhi herself jumping up to retrieve the reservation bill from an SP MP who snatched it from the hands of V. Narayanasamy, MoS for Personnel, as he sought to introduce it in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress hopes that their leader’s action will send out the right message to what has been the party’s traditional constituency, if not in U.P., then in the rest of the country.

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