State passes resolution for caste-based census
Speaker Nana Patole's sudden call had the Opposition BJP's complete support while the Maha Vikas Aghadi members were left surprised.
State Assembly Speaker Nana Patole caught the house unawares on Wednesday when he rose to move a resolution — a rare move by the presiding officer — to have the number of other backward class (OBCs) individuals measured in the national census to be held next year.
While a resolution in this regard was ultimately passed in the Assembly, the Speaker's suo-motu initiative resulted in a brief debate, albeit in a cautious manner because the holder of the highest post was using powers vested in him. The ruling parties in Maha Vikas Aghadi, CM Uddhav Thackeray, the Assembly's business advisory committee (of all-party leaders) which decides proceedings of the legislature, the opposition benches and the legislative officials were surprised when the Speaker rose.
An imminent OBC leader, Patole's move came immediately after the House had passed a bill that endorsed the Centre's amendment to the constitution for extending the reservation of seats for scheduled castes and tribes (by-election), and Anglo-Indian community (by nomination) in the house of people and legislative assemblies for another 10 years. The quota approved by the earlier amendment would have ceased to exist on January 25, 2020, if not extended further. The bill was passed unanimously by both houses of Maharashtra Legislature in a special sitting on Wednesday.
"I'm moving this (caste census resolution) because a lot of OBC delegations have approached me seeking my intervention. They want the state government to tell the Centre to find out the OBC population in the country so that their quota could be amended accordingly. The present quantum (27 per cent) was arrived upon on the basis of a caste census that the British had held decades ago," said Patole, asking the House to approve it.
Miscommunication in VBA?
Deputy CM Ajit Pawar made a suggestion that the Speaker should go the traditional way. "It is your right, but I think we should discuss it at an appropriate time with a business advisory committee before tabling it here. I think that will be proper and in accordance with the laid down practices," he said.
NCP leader and minister Chhagan Bhujbal, whose politics revolves around the OBC vote bank, however, rose to support the Speaker. He said the OBC statistics was required and the demand was long-pending.
Congress members refrained from speaking in the house but some said after the proceedings that they were very surprised by Patole's move.
"Opposing the Speaker, who is our party colleague, would have sent the wrong signal outside the House. Anyways, the decision will get political traction. Patole would get even more mileage because he has been raising the voice of OBCs and had quit the BJP when OBC-related issues he raised were ignored," said a senior minister.
Seeing the apt opportunity for nailing the MVA's lack of coordination, opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis ensured that Patole had his way. "In fact, such resolutions should come from the ruling parties. We also feel that the OBC (caste) census is much-required. We have no problem with the Speaker's proposal," he said.
Meantime, as CM Thackeray's discomfort increased, parliamentary affairs minister and Shiv Sena leader Anil Parab insisted that the resolution should come to the House through a proper channel and could be taken up at the next month's budget session.
However, the Speaker said it would be too late and asked the House for agreement. The following voice vote saw more 'ayes' coming in from the Opposition benches.
Later, Patole said his intention was to not delay the recommendation further. "I have been studying the issue for long and can't stop working on it even while I sit in the Speaker's chair. The issue is getting complicated every year. It is up to the Centre to accept the recommendation. We have done our job," he said.
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