In what was dubbed a political masterstroke yesterday, the Union Cabinet had approved a bill for 10% reservation, reportedly for the economically weaker sections in government jobs and education.
The proposition will require a constitutional amendment to increase the reservation cap from 50% to 60%, for which the union government plans to table the bill in the parliament today.
The bill, after the cabinet approval yesterday, created a massive stir in political and media circles. Many political parties and prominent leaders, visibly agitated over the move, went on to call it a Jumla.
See last two tweets re reservation 4forwards? Qs—did u nt think of this for 4 yrs 8 mths? so obviously thought of as election gimmick 3mths b4 model code! (3) u know u cannot exceed 50% maxima so it is done only to posture tht u tried unctal thing (4) do u hv majority 4ctal am?
— Abhishek Singhvi (@DrAMSinghvi) January 7, 2019
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala stated in a press conference that the move by the central government just a few months before elections is a question mark on the government’s intentions.
वास्तविकता यह भी है कि चार साल आठ महीने बीत जाने के बाद व चुनाव की हार सामने देख केवल 100 दिन पहले ही मोदी सरकार को आर्थिक तौर से गरीबों की याद आई है, ऐसा क्यों?
यह अपने आप में प्रधानमंत्री मोदी जी व सरकार की नीयत पर प्रश्न खड़ा करता हैI pic.twitter.com/uWQvDtzPmQ
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) January 7, 2019
Several political leaders, who have themselves made their present positions over caste-based politics, have proceeded to call it a ‘Jumla’. Hardik Patel, Tejaswi Yadav and many others joined in.
However, the Congress questioning the timing of the move is a bit rich, for the party had itself tried desperately to lure Jats before the 2014 general elections. The UPA-II under Manmohan Singh had decided to include Jats under the OBC category in March 2014, barely weeks before the general elections.
The Jat reservation move was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015.
Nevertheless, Congress will still be shooting on its own foot if it attempts to stall the government’s move, because Congress, in its elections manifestos through 2004, 2009 and 2014 had promised reservation for the economically weaker sections, (EWS) without compromising the reservation quota for SC, ST and OBC.
This is the relevant portion of the Congress’ 2014 manifesto:
The first point in page 22, under the section ‘Empowering Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other backward classes, states that the party aims to provide reservation in education and employment for the EWS without in any way affecting existing reservations for SC, ST and OBCs.
In the 2009 Election Manifesto as well, Congress had promised the same reservation. Here is the relevant portion of the party’s 2009 election manifesto:
The 2009 manifesto states in the para 7, page 16 that the party pledges to carve out reservation for the EWS without prejudice to the existing reservations for SC, ST and OBCs.
Even in the 2004 manifesto, Congress had made the same promise of providing reservation for the EWS from the sections that are not entitled to reservation currently.
It is interesting that what Congress has promised since 2004 had now seen the light of day under the Modi government. Essentially, in the entire 10-year tenure of Congress from 2004 to 2014, the Congress government had vowed to bring in reservation for the Economically backward but had never done it. The Modi government has delivered in less than 5 years of its tenure.
It is evident that the Modi government in its recent move is finally delivering what the Congress had promised since at least 15 years and had failed to uphold in a decade of being in power since 2004. Any counter comments by Congress leaders over the move is only going to be an embarrassing self-goal.