Opposition forces Rajya Sabha amendment to motion thanking President; govt left red-faced

The Hindu Business Line, March 06, 2016

Minutes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi?s request for cooperation, the Opposition in Rajya Sabha amended government?s motion to thank President Pranab Mukherjee?s address to both the Houses of Parliament.

The amendment moved by Opposition leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the House regretted that the President did not mention attempts to put restrictions to citizens who want to fight panchayat polls. ??The Address does not mention that the government is committed to secure the fundamental right of all the citizens to contest elections at all elevels, including to panchayats to further strengthen the foundations of democracy, which also forms part of the basic structure of Constitution?? the amendment said. In 2015 too, the Opposition had amended the motion to thank President.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley objected and said federalism will ?go for a six? is the House approves the amendment. He said the Constitution allows State governments to make their own laws on holding panchayat elections. The Opposition benches questioned it and said the effort is to warn a tendency blocking people from contesting elections. Deputy Chairman ruled in favour of the Opposition and said the amendment is a concern of the particular member and it does not speak about laws in any States. 94 members voted in favour of Azad?s amendment while 61 voted against it.

Later, talking to reporters Azad said Haryana and Rajasthan Assemblies passed a law fixing minimum educational qualification for contesting local body elections. ?The Prime Minister did not give any assurance to us on this issue,? Azad said.

Modi, earlier, urged the Opposition to withdraw the amendment and said the laws passed by Haryana has been upheld by the Supreme Court. He added that the illiteracy was a result of the 60-year Congress rule, which was protested by Congress members.

Former Panchayati Raj Minister Jairam Ramesh said 80 per cent of the SC and ST women could not fight the elections due to such stipulations. ?You don’t need qualitative improvement in Lok Sabha, you don’t need qualitative improvement in Assemblies and you need qualitative improvement in local governments. I don’t understand the political logic behind this,? Ramesh said.

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