The government is gearing up for the Lok Sabha elections which take place in three months’ time with a push to win over voters. The latest move is to amend the constitution to provide a 10% reservation in jobs and higher education for economically weaker sections. As the government put it in part, this move was to address the demands “of the economically weaker sections of the people who are not covered by any of the existing schemes of reservation.” Among the sections being targeted with this is the poor among the upper castes.
The move to give reservations to weaker upper castes is double edged sword for @narendramodi Govt. Will enable BJP to woo back disillusioned upper castes but will also feed into SC/OBC insecurities of reservation system being altered.Desperate times call for desperate measures!— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) January 7, 2019
The proposal to give 10% reservation to economically weaker upper castes is nothing more than a jumla. It is bristling with legal complications and there is no time for getting it passed thru both Houses of Parliament. Govt stands completely exposed.— Yashwant Sinha (@YashwantSinha) January 7, 2019
The Congress jumped on an important but unsaid point in the government’s decision on reservations; the promise of new jobs hasn’t exactly borne fruit to the extent that the government said it would. Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said in part, “…the Narendra Modi government has suddenly woken up to the woes of the economically poor, facing imminent defeat in the 2019 elections, and with 100 days to go for polls.” The Congress did say that it supported reservations for economically weaker sections if it doesn’t hurt the mandate for reservations for Dalits. Kerala Chief Minister P Vijayan supports the government’s latest efforts on reservation but did concede that the move came in light of the upcoming elections. He said in part, “The CPI(M) has earlier itself wanted reservation for the economically weaker people among higher castes.” The Hindustan Times editorial questions if the move will bear fruit – “Whether this is a real solution to underlying structural issues of Indian political economy of educational opportunities and jobs is open to question. Public employment is limited. Private sector does not have reservations. The goal has to be to expand the pie.” This was echoed by Harsh Mander, a former IAS officer. Writing for The Print, he states that opportunities need to be expanded – “Reservations recognise the social humiliation and exclusions that people of disadvantaged castes have endured for millennia, and not mere poverty. Poverty does not call for reservation, but rather creation of more equal and abundant opportunities.” Coming into power in 2014, the government promised to work for the poor by creating new jobs and improve the lives of farmers by increasing their income. With regards to the later, the past couple of months have been downhill for the government. It rode the wave of poor and other backward class voters to form the government. The coalition of voters that gave it electoral success last time is key to the BJP’s success. This latest move on reservation is a clear attempt to win or win back that coalition.
10% quota for EBC is redundant. Given the high limit of ₹ 8L, most of gen category will qualify. More than 10% are already being selected.— Yogendra Yadav (@_YogendraYadav) January 7, 2019
So, this is not even a lollipop gifted to voters, it's a lollipop lying in your pocket that's being presented to you as a gift.
More columns by Varun Sukumar