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Anti-Modi front proceeds to commit political suicide with their opposition to 10% reservation for economically backward

The move was met with strict opposition from all quarters. However, in their bid to oppose the Modi government and every move it makes, the opposition parties have invariably shot themselves in the foot.

With the 2019 elections looming large, the political atmosphere in the country is bustling with activity. Today, several reports have suggested that the Modi government is all set to approve a 10% reservation for the economically backward sections of the society. While some reports suggest that the reservations might be limited the upper castes, some suggest that the reservation might extend to anybody who is not a part of the current reservation structure and that means, it would include Muslims and Christians too.

Just as the news started trickling in, the mahagathbandhan, or the anti-Modi alliance’s reaction came as no surprise. The move was met with strict opposition from all quarters. However, in their bid to oppose the Modi government and every move it makes, the opposition parties have invariably shot themselves in the foot.

Asaduddin Owaisi, the AIMIM chief proceeded to make a bizarre statement. He said that reservations are meant to correct historical injustice to Dalits. He said that for poverty alleviation, the government must run various schemes but reservations are only meant for social justice.

With this statement, Owaisi, perhaps in his zeal to oppose did not realise the massive self-goal he was hitting. Owaisi has been a champion of Muslim causes and has been demanding reservations for Muslims for the longest time. Earlier, Owaisi has demanded Muslim reservations based on how ‘backward’ Muslims are.

In the past, as can be seen, he has also mentioned that reservation will break the cycle of poverty that Muslims live in. At the very outset, Owaisi seems to have contradicted himself in his opposition to 10% reservation for the economically backward.

Secondly, when Owaisi says that reservations are meant to be some sort of reparations for historical wrongs, one is also well within reason to ask Owaisi what injustice should the Muslims be given special concession for? Historically, it is a well-established fact that Muslims have heaped atrocities on other communities like Hindus, Christians, Sikhs etc. If one is to go by his logic now, Muslims would not be eligible for reservations at all. In fact, it stands to reason that for times to come, every time Owaisi brings the topic up, it is this very argument that will be used to counter him.

This move of the Modi government is set to be especially difficult for the Congress party.

In Bihar, Rahul Gandhi’s close friend and ally, Tejashwi Yadav has slammed this move by the Modi government as well. Tejashwi has taken a stand similar to Owaisi’s and said that reservations are meant to solve caste issues and not economic ones.

While RJD is playing to its Yadav and Muslim vote bank, this could spell doom for Congress. Congress has been trying to capitalise on the disenchantment of the upper caste and middle class with the Modi government which has been taking several steps towards the upliftment of Dalits and backward classes. With its ally in Bihar opposing reservation that is meant to benefit communities other than those who already have reservations, it is almost certain that the sentiment Congress is trying to capitalise on will slip away as 2019 closes in.

As far as Uttar Pradesh politics are concerned, we had reported earlier how SP, BSP and Congress were all set to indulge in shadow boxing in order to get their caste equations right. SP and BSP were to form an alliance while Congress was to pretend to fight elections alone only to form a post-poll alliance. While SP and BSP were to capitalise on the votes of the backward classes, Congress was supposed to woo to upper caste voters.

Congress has so far had confused reactions. But the undertone is that of opposition, obviously.

Interestingly, with such opposing voices, the plank of wooing upper caste votes might as well just go out of the window for Congress. The juggernaut is evident in this movie considering Congress, which has no idea how to be in the opposition, is hell-bent on opposing every move by the Modi government even if it hurts them electorally.

On the other hand, Hardik Patel, who has himself risen (or fallen, depending on your political understanding) on the plank of demanding reservation for Patels, who are upper caste, seems to be opposing this move with confused utterings.

Hardik Patel has said that this is the last arrow in Modi’s quiver and termed it a ‘jumla’. While this argument is far better than Owaisi’s, one has to wonder how his comment would be viewed by his supporters.

On one hand, he has himself agitated for reservations. On the other, instead of supporting the Modi government, he has been seen opposing this move by deriding the government who is delivering on the demand.

All said and done, and whether finally, the reservation of 10% is set to be given only to upper castes or all general category people which would include Muslims and Christians, the opposition parties are set to lose the perception battle with this.

If it is limited to upper castes, their pitch for disenchanted upper caste voters would fail. If it is meant to include Muslims and Christians, them backtracking their statements is an impossibility and for them to oppose these reservations would become even more difficult. Their only resort would be to repeatedly term this as a ‘jumla’ while the Modi government is set to win the perception battle rather squarely, leaving his detractors stammering and scampering for a legitimate reason to oppose this announcement.

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Nupur J Sharma
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017

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