In what can be viewed as a political surgical strike just months ahead of the general elections, the BJP government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has approved 10 per cent reservation in jobs and higher education for ‘economically-backward’ sections in the general category. The proposed reservation will be over and above the existing 50 per cent reservation enjoyed by the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes, taking the total reservation to 60 per cent. The government will amend Articles 15 and 16 – which are on discrimination and equal opportunity – of the Constitution to implement it, according to reports.
As expected, most Opposition parties called it an election gimmick and a step to woo upper caste votes just ahead of the polls. However, they are not likely to oppose it in Parliament, since doing so might cost them heavily in the polls. While Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi tweeted that the government announced the decision only three months before the model code of conduct will be put in place for the general elections, former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, who quit the BJP recently, called it a ‘jumla’. He also said the move is rife with judicial complications and that the government has no time to get it passed through Parliament.
Interestingly, Delhi Chief Minister and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal promised support, but added that the move would be ‘merely an election stunt’ if the constitutional amendment is not passed immediately. Even the CPI(M) called it a welcome step with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan saying it was a long-pending demand of the party. For long, it has been a grouse of the economically-backward but so-called forward caste people that they were not able to enjoy the fruits of reservation despite being poor, just because of their birth. If this move could give them some solace, it would surely be welcomed by all, no matter whether it is a election stunt or not.